Friday, October 1, 2010

My Road to Work

As commutes go, I'll wager my 20-minute drive to work at Eagle Optics is right up there among the best. This was confirmed on a recent morning when I drove a 3-mile stretch of Town Hall Road, which aligns with a meandering creek in a gentle southern Wisconsin valley.

I love the scenery along Town Hall Road. A combination of lowland, rock outcrops, rolling farm fields and wooded habitat make for good wildlife viewing: it is unlikely one would miss either deer or wild turkeys while motoring through, and songbirds are abundant. Catbirds and thrashers are fond of the roadside hedgerows and fence lines thick with overgrowth, kestrels and bluebirds survey the ground from telephone lines, herons wade the creek, and woodpeckers and nuthatches zigzag between the many old, majestic oaks.

It was on this road, passing by each morning one spring, I would look up to check the progress of a Red-tailed Hawk's nest and the fledgling's first flight. Once I spotted a Northern Shrike on an overhead line; as I braked and pulled out my binoculars, it flew down to a barbed wire fence and began to peck at a small bird carcass it had cached on a barb. I've parked along the shoulder sipping coffee and counting juncos, Downy Woodpeckers, and Tree Sparrows during many Christmas Bird Counts; and I've delighted in seeing dozens of Cedar Waxwings at the top of a single young walnut tree.

But perhaps the most memorable sighting (so far) on Town Hall Road occurred last week: I rounded a curve, began to ascend a hill and drove straight toward a large, looming figure up on the telephone wire. It took a moment to recognize this Great Blue Heron in its sure stance, legs wide, yellow toes gripping the cable. I slowed the car to a stop and stared, astonished. Before I could comprehend how the 4-ft.-tall, long-legged, long-necked bird could pull off such a feat of supreme balance, the bird smoothly turned, and with one powerful beat of its wings, glided over the old orchard trees and out of sight. Oh, yes. I like my commute.

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

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