Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Solstice Ouzel

For our winter solstice activity, we decided on yet another long birdwatching walk (surprise!) We got in a good four hours tramp, the latter half while being rained upon. Nevertheless, since we had adequately prepared with rainslickers, hats and gloves, we carried on. In honor of the new season, we were blessed with extra good fortune in our birdwatching, and spent some time watching a water ouzel (current "official" name American Dipper) bobbing, swimming and catching morsels at the bottom of the river which he gobbled up with relish. The ouzels seem to show up around this time of year, having migrated not north to south but from higher elevation to lower. Although as I am sure is quite obvious, we love birds, there are certain kinds that bring an extra spring to our steps and the ouzel is one of them. There doesn't seem to be a gloomy bone in their little bodies. John Muir wrote a wonderful essay about ouzels, and lo and behold, it can be found here, if you have a few spare minutes, it's worth the time reading.

We've gotten some semi-decent rains the last weeks and the river is starting to fill in a bit. We ended up having to cross the river twice, and not at the bridge as originally intended because we realized that we'd never make it there and home without getting completely drenched. So we rockhopped across at a shallow spot - Dino hopped, I ended up splashing because I missed. But the water didn't go up over my boots so it wasn't too horrible squishy walking home.

Here is a pretty spot on the Chowchilla near where we often see ducks - mallards or wood ducks or both. We saw the mallards further down river, on the big bend just past the ouzel, a flock of 50 or more.

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