kinglets and kittens
I spent yesterday afternoon helping out with a field lab my all-time favorite professor was doing with her introductory zoology course, which involved measuring the webs of spiders belong to different genuses out at a local wildlife area. It was a lot of fun, though I must admit my attention wasn't one hundred percent on the students in the lab... I was distracted by the birds.
For the first hour or so all I noticed were a lot of blue jays, the occasional crow, and some turkey vultures overhead. However, as I was walking through the brush from one group of students to another, I struck gold: a mixed flock of fall migrants suddenly materialized out of nowhere in the scrubby trees around me. It was amazing.
It's one thing to drive for a couple hours to visit a wildlife area specifically known for being a staging area for spring migrants about to cross Lake Erie, and another thing to suddenly walk into a flock of migrants when you're not even supposed to be birdwatching. And it's one thing to have an experienced birder point to something moving in a tree and tell you, "That's a ruby-crowned kinglet," and another thing to find yourself face-to-face with half a dozen of them.
Kinglets. A number of them, hopping to the edges of their bushes for a look at me while I just stood there pishing quietly. Also some sparrows, wrens, and a warbler or two, none of which I got a good enough look at to identify properly (though I'm guessing the wrens were house wrens, just based on what species would be likely to be migrating through my area at the moment). After five or ten minutes, the flock moved on, and I went running to find the professor to tell her about it...
Only to find her with two students, trying to coax a pair of abandoned kittens out of their hiding place.
So I finished out the afternoon sitting on top of the earthen dike with my professor, each of us cradling a kitten on our lap. Two of the students who live in the area volunteered to give them homes. After a brief stop to show off the local bald eagle nest, we headed back to campus. All in all, a pretty satisfying way to spend a Thursday afternoon.