Saturday, February 21, 2009
Where it began: Wood Storks at Lake Wauberg, by the southern end of Paynes Prairie.
This is a story of life and loss, and it began and ended this morning at Lake Wauberg.
I've been meaning the check the place out for a while, and this morning I finally did. After paying the $3 admission fee at the main entrance to Paynes Prairie State Park (one of the things that had been keeping me away—yes, I'm that cheap), I drove slowly towards the lake, slowing down to watch herds of deer grazing by the side of the road.
I parked the car and birded the wooded area by the parking lot before heading to the water. I found a loud feeding flock filled with scolding Carolina Wrens and a good mix of warblers: a couple of Black and Whites, a Yellow-throated, and an Ovenbird.
The boardwalk trail by the edge of the lake was beautiful: right off the boardwalk were the two Wood Storks above, calmly preening at the water's edge. Double-crested Cormorants and Pie-billed Grebes dove in and out of the water, and flocks of White Pelicans were everywhere:
At the far end of the boardwalk was a grassy picnic area, where I saw two Bald Eagles flying overhead, and several Wild Turkeys on the ground. Here's one of them:
The Wild Turkey was one of my nemesis birds when I first moved out here. My weekly near-miss encounters with them invariably went something like this:
OTHER BIRDER: Oh look! Wild Turkeys!
ME: Oh wow, where??
OTHER BIRDER: RIght over--oops, now they're gone.
Now I can't complain any more.
On the way back over the boardwalk, I spotted a Marsh Wren and a Swamp Sparrow in the marshy area at the lake's edge. There were also a couple of noisy catbirds, eating berries and harassing each other. Here's one of them.
And then there were the Wood Storks again. One of them was in pretty much the same area where I had left him about 45 minutes before. But the other?
All that remained was a single wing, lying on top of the water, to the left of the surviving bird. I'm guessing he or she became breakfast for some hungry alligator—the Wood Storks seem too big for the local raptors to take out.
And the remaining Wood Stork? Still there, doing what it has to do. He or she has obviously moved on.
Nature's life lessons can be ugly, but they bear repeating. Treasure the fleeting gift that is your life. Don't waste time looking backwards.
And pay attention to those "No Swimming" signs at Lake Wauberg. They're there for a good reason.