The warm sunny day called me to walk the Brainerd levee, one of my favorite haunts in Days gone by. It was well after 4:00 in the afternoon when I arrived and began with quick paced strides to pond enclosed by a bend in the structure.
Absence was a notable feature this day. I saw few of the perching birds that dominate the skyline here. No large flocks of American Robins or Cedar Waxwings filled the trees. One or two cardinals and a pair of Mockingbirds filled out the population, along with four European Starlings, strangely different from the huge winter flocks that often congregate on the driving range across the road.
As I reached the second bend, I was pleased to see large growths of mistletoe on the trees across South Chickamauga Creek, but the heron nests were gone entirely. I remember one March day seeing a number of them sitting on nest, and a Great Horned Owl with two chicks occupying one heron nest which it had claimed early that year. Neither Great Blue Herons nor Great Horned Owls graced the opposite shore, though the Great Horned Owl normally lays her eggs in January.
Although open water was not totally absent, is was also not abundant. Ice covered most of the pond. In the open water on the far side I saw a nice flock of Northern Shovelers swim toward the shore in single file. Several males on, two females patrolled the icy water. A small group of Gadwall, two males and two females patrolled the open water near the shrubs. I am surprised these shrubs continue to grow, their roots in water soaked mud.
A flock of Green Winged Teal claimed the larger opening further down the shoreline. Though I saw no killdeer, four shorebirds worked the shoreline. They were the proper size to be Wilsons Snipe, but not identifiable.
As I walked back to the parking lot and my truck, I noticed a small flock of Canada Geese crossing the sky over the levee. Then flock after flock came to their place in the marsh. I would number them at 200 or so. Even in the depth of freezing winter, the birds make their home at the Brainerd Levee.