Sunday, March 18, 2012

And so this is winter

As one of the birders said today, when it's winter in Chicago, everyone swears they hate it and they are going to move out of this town with its weird, bad, icy winters and move somewhere better, but as soon as spring comes and the sky is blue and boats drift or motor easily on the lake, everyone is just so glad to be here.  When the weather's nice, Chicago is spectacularly great, especially on the lakefront.

For those who don't know, Lake Michigan is immense and it's like living on an ocean without the bother of tide.  When there's some breeze, there is very good windsurfing to be had and giant sailing vessels can easily maneuver and go great distances with ease.  It, and the other huge lakes, are called the Great Lakes for a reason.  Chicago is right on Lake Michigan.  At many spots on the lakefront, the various skylines are fantastic, and, from the shore, the lake is every bit the same.  There are beaches for swimming, several harbors for pleasure craft to dock, and a beach where there are dozens of beach volleyball nets for those with a hankering for wearing bathing suits in teams of two.  It is cooler in the summer by many degrees and warmer in the winter.  It's an inland sea and if you've never seen it, when you do you won't believe your eyes.  Spring comes late in Chicago and lasts for about 3 weeks.  Suddenly everything is green!  And in full blossom!  And then it stays green and the buds fall off and it's about 90 degrees and the humidity is 95% which lasts for several months (unless it doesn't because it's Chicago and we don't live here for the weather).

Not this year.  This year, it came in early March and has been hanging pleasantly around.  The magnolia trees are in bloom as are the red bud.  What are those zany little blue wildflowers?  They're out, too, along with daffodils.  It is scary -- come on, it's 30 degrees above normal in the middle of March -- but it is also so glorious that those of us who know our bug population this year will be insane are almost willing to just shut up and enjoy it.  (Almost but not quite.  As many bugs as we're going to get can't be forgotten.)  We never get as many lovely days as this in regular spring or summer or fall.  Everyone is loving it.

Redwing blackbird, lookin' for love
This morning, the birders and I went to the Magic Hedge which was hosting the return of many robins, redwing blackbirds (looking for mates, preening, and flitting about), mergansers and mallards on the water.  There was a rumor of a shrike but we didn't see a shrike.  We saw a cockatiel.  Yeah, you heard me.

I used to own three cockatiels:  Miss Snr, Mars, and Mumtaz.  Mars and Mumtaz were mates.  Mumtaz was one of the prettiest birds I've ever seen and was so loud it could split your head in half.  Mars liked to trade wolf whistles with me.  Miss Snr thought I was her mate and liked to do the wild thing on my leg (don't get me started).  Cockatiels are Australian flocking birds and they call to each other.  High.  Clear.  Loud.  If cockatiels are on TV and one of the TV cockatiels calls to another, the ensuing noise is mind-boggling.  "Mickey's in TROUBLE!!!  We're here, Mickey!"

Escapee: Cutie.  Whereabouts:  Montrose Harbor
One of the birders who'd come to the lakefront with his dad or father-in-law or neighbor said, "I think I see a white-winged dove," to which I replied, "Did she sing a song sounds like she's singing?"  He said, "I honestly didn't think of that."  Then he put up his binoculars and said, "No, that's a cockatiel."  We raced over and I wolf-whistled at it and held out my hand and said, "Come here, birdie," (of course it didn't), but I didn't want to take it home (no cage, no cuttle bone, no wish to commit to a pet) nor did I want to think how it was going to be dinner of that shrike or one of the several hawks or peregrine falcons hanging about today, so we walked on.

Little Miss or Mister Cockatiel Thing was an escape and his owners probably wonder what happened to him.  Hey!  He's at the Magic Hedge, hanging with the robins and the killdeer and the kingbirds and the fox sparrows, until, like that Western Thrasher from last year, he isn't any more because nature, while serene and glorious on a warm day in what should be winter, is a fickle and hard hearted bitch,  and with no known North American predators, everyone is your friend until it turns out they are not, and then you, my pal, are dinner. 

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