Peregrinate with Purpose My WordPress Blog

January 20, 2021

Minnows and Crossbills

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Brehm @ 1:52 am

After weeks of monotone gray, the sun shines a bright January shine. Hunting this morning, though I see or hear no sign of deer. Big Bailey Run, however, is alive with thrashing minnows beneath a thin sheet of ice. As the sun touches bottom

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, the benthic zone’s color blends perfectly with fish bodies. Looking with binoculars, all I can see of the western redside dace is their mottled red stripe. Two northern hognose suckers are among the shimmering dace, settling at the creek bottom with their long faces looking upstream to what may come. They are well-camoflaged, like half-erased pencil drawings. A frog even kicks beneath the paper-thin ice, to what end is not clear, but it seems satisfied to half-bury itself in the silt and drowned sycamore leaves. 

The creek is utterly perfect, a miracle considering past damage to the forest and geology within the watershed over the past century or more–mining, severe deforestation

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, etc in the first several decades of the 1900s. Yet the water is clear and the fish are alive. ODNR’s pocket guide says the northern hognose suckers need clean water, runs and riffles, with which this stretch of the creek is rich. The creek dribbles on over a riffle of small, flat stones, and sparkles like so many stars fallen to earth still aflame. 

A beaver dam on Big Bailey Run, a ways downstream from the fish encounters.

Yesterday, I went back to Old Waterloo State Forest (now part of Zaleski SF) in search of the red crossbills, and found them foraging in the afternoon sun. The birds eagerly tore through the bumper crop of shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata). There were more bird watchers than crossbills, and it was nice to bask in the distanced company of both. I almost turned back with one of the birders, driving past me along the road to the birds, told me there were a lot of people up there. I’m glad I didn’t. Everyone had the attitude and disposition as if they were in church, which in a way is true. We worshipped in the great pine cathedral where the basic elements were on full display: bright sunshine, cold wind, and so many shapes of the earth. As the crossbills foraged, the lucky amongst us held our heads high, not taking our eyes off the red and yellow birds. As they shucked seeds, clinging to pine branches and cones from every possible angle, the papery coatings drifted down, spinning like maple samaras. I chased one down to give to Juniper.

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