I probably should download a paid version of iBird to my Android cellphone, the Nexus from Google and Samsung. Birds can be identified by feather colors and patterns, size and silhouette. Most of the birds I see are above my head in trees, camouflaged by leaves and shaded by full sun. Flight patterns can help identify a bird, even it the bird is flying from one tree to another in a forest second. So when I see a bird I cannot identify, I keep an eye on its flight for as long as it appears to view. I heard a twig twang last night, and I saw my red tail hawk fly from the boughs of a Norway maple on the west side of Business US-31 to a maple on the east side. West or east of the train trestle over Cress Creek, the trees grant an excellent view of the trestle, the creek and the blacktop, which offers daily servings of road kill. He ascended so quietly, beating his wings in unison, as I imagine an angel would fly. This is the second time I have witnessed him, I assume maleness, working that kill zone. I am looking forward to seeing him work it all summer long. Maybe I'll sit in the woods across the street from where I see him perching, waiting to catch him red in beak and claws.
A bird I've seen flitting around Hidden Cove Park has long tail feathers, tipped in white. A bird I heard announce my passage along a trail that ran under his grove cried like a crow, and its silhouette reminded me of a blue jay. I'll have to page through iBird and listen to songs repeated a few times. My daughter spends plenty of time at her grandmother's, who has a kitchen clock with twelve birds that warble a different each hour. I wish I had that clock to give me twelve bird song lessons each half day.
The sun was descending, and I had yet to have an interesting encounter with an animal I could identify. When I arrived to my building, I slipped around back to see what might appear in the marshes of Mona Lake. I walked out on the dock and in the mud exposed by an outgoing seiche, I saw a dead, upside down fish. It's hard to identify a fish from its belly, and it was a young fish. It was out of my reach, about eight feet below the dock. The dock once had allowed residents to dock their sailboats and power boats on Mona Lake. Now, the docks towered over the sandy bottom Cress Creek, which flowed into Mona Lake a quarter mile north. I couldn't flip the fish to see its colored scales. I was guessing yellow perch or small mouth bass. This morning, the seiche had returned, flooding the mud bank and floating the corpse out into the deeper water. It would become a morsel for some hungry creature.
I didn't want to write about a dead fish I could not identify. Right then, a mink swam into view up Cress Creek. It took a dive as it drew close to me. A mink can swim underwater for about twenty seconds, long enough to tag a fish and bite it behind its head. I saw him come up in the flock of Mallard, the females and their brood. I had no idea where the drakes were spending their evening, but the boys were away for the night. I have seen one mink swimming up and down Cress Creek every summer since I moved to the second floor apartment. I haven't seen more and I haven't seen less, and this is the fifth summer of seeing the mink. I understand that the mink is better at capturing rats than a terrier. Since a mink will enter a muskrat's hole and kill the inhabitant, so will the mink enter a rat's dry hole on the same mission. I prefer to look only at my mink as it swims by my view. The excretions of a mink are said to make a skunk's spray smell like perfume by comparison.
Soon after the mink was lost in the shadows forming on the creek's surface, I saw two blue herons, clearly herons, fly north over the marsh, one leading, larger in size. I assume the second, smaller in size, had chosen her leader as a lover. I saw the male descend to the lake surface. I saw the female rapidly descend twenty feet to follow, gracefully sliding left then right to lose altitude. In the distance as the light failed, I saw three birds of heron size joined in a ballet over Mona Lake near Willow Point. The Coast Guard helicopter passed over the marsh once, twice and three times of manuevers from Muskegon County Airport. One time, the spotlight was directed right at my eyes.
Lord knows, I can't tell. What do I spy nigh, iBird? http://ibird.com/