I took a brief walk this afternoon down by the beach then through the park to the post office. My timing turned out to be good, as the rain had stopped and I even managed to catch a break in the clouds which allowed the sun to shine briefly while I was down by the beach.
When I left the house, I noticed quite a bit of bird activity. Although I did see a couple of chickadees at the feeders, mostly what I observed was a lot of high-frequency calling going on from juncos, chickadees, kinglets, and sparrows. It almost seemed as if they were a bit frenetic – perhaps they were taking advantage of the break in the weather to forage as much as they could in the short time they had remaining before sundown. When I got to the bottom of the hill path on the short cut to Lincoln Street, a Winter Wren popped up and chirped at me. I paused to look at it, and watched it fly ahead to a clump of lady ferns, where it disappeared under the remains of last years fronds. I heard a couple more chirps from it as I walked by.
Just as I arrived down at the water, a break in the clouds to the southwest allowed the sun to break through and illuminate the shoreline from the rocks where I was standing over to the forest standing above the beach at Totem Park. The direct light did not last for long, but its warm tones highlighted the rocks and trees on the beach, as well as the white foam at the edge of the water where the pulsing waves thrown up by the brisk SW wind were breaking apart on the large boulders only partially covered by the high tide. Offsetting these warm tones were the darker blues and grays in the background, where waters reflected the heavy overcast still blocking the sun, as it had for most of the day.
Out front in front of the park I noticed 8 Barrow’s Goldeneye, diving repeatedly to forage under the waves where they were breaking over the flats. Further out were 3 Red-breasted Mergansers – a species which has seemed to be sparse along the road system this winter – though I counted over 40 of them just south of town on the Christmas Bird Count at the beginning of the month.
Indian River was running higher than normal for this time of year. It was in no danger of flooding its banks in the park, but the rains combined with melting snow brought on by warmer temperatures covered all the unvegetated gravel and cobbles in the river bed.