Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013, Thursday

On Wednesday, an unseasonably bright and warm February day, Bret joined Nora and me on our usual walk around Bennington Lake.

We looked forward to seeing herons, mergansers and owls. And I wanted to show Bret the large number of owl pellets on the ground in a small stand of ponderosa pines and junipers near the east side of the lake.

And we had the prospect of seeing long-eared owls there, as well as great horned owls in a stand of tall cottonwoods next to a large swath of honey locusts.

I carried the usual camera with the 150-500-mm zoom lens and Bret carried a soft cooler with beer.

We trekked along at a casual speed, conducive to gossip and reminisces. Nora dashed about with her nose to the ground. She often squated to mark spot after spot in seemingly haphazard fashion.

We saw a heron swoop to a landing on a nest high in a cottonwood tree near Rooks Park. We saw the usual geese, ducks and mergansers on Mill Creek.

We walked all around the lake. We met people with friendly dogs, including black labs, a Jack Russell, a Belgian Malinois guard dog and a 180-pound great Dane named Charlie.

We saw the owl pellets, a bald eagle cruising over the lake looking hopelessly for a fish, five or six low-flying harriers and one great horned owl in the cottonwood near the wheat fields.

We sat on a rain-water collecting tank, to provide water for wildlife, and drank Black Butte Porters,

We crossed below the dam, on the lake side (noting the wide mud flats and low water) and saw a great horned owl on a nest deep in a hole in the cliff near the toilets.

We saw the owl by taking an over-exposed photo of the hole and magnifying the image in the LCD window. Otherwise, the hole looked like a dark spot on the cliff.

We headed back and paused on a bench for our second Black Butte Porter and to enjoy the scenery and the outing. One strikingly pretty and smiling young woman passed with a black lab

After that, a woman paused with the handsome 180-pound Charlie. We all visited for sometime, with Nora staying away from the friendly giant. Bret and I petted Charlie.

Back along the stream, I snapped photos of two common mergansers that sent up plumes of spray as they sprinted across the water and launched into flight.

We spent about five hours on the walk, with (according to my new Garmin etrek 30) three hours moving and two hours not moving. We averaged one-mile per hour.

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