For the past 2 1/2 years, I have made it a point to walk approximately three miles every day. Most often I walk at a wildlife conservation area with many trails and a lake within the city limits of metropolitan Nashville.
I made a goal to post one photo a day of nature or wildlife on Facebook and other social media.
This has been a remarkably positive experience. A cold morning this week was especially so.
I arrived just after sunrise but before the sun rose above the hills that encircle the lake.
When I started my walk the temperature was 22° but Accuweather said it felt like 17°.
Small birds were prolific, unlike the previous day when the woods seemed unusually quiet.
A family group of does watched me as I approached, lifting their heads and turning as I walked along.
The younger ones were playful and scampered back and forth into the woods. The older ones kept their eyes on me until I stopped and lowered myself to appear smaller. They eventually returned to their grazing.
I walked on and saw several yellow-rumped warblers and eastern phoebes feeding on trees at the edge of the lake. More of these birds are showing up now than were here over the winter.
A flock of tree swallows flew by. Fog was rising from the water. As the sun crept above the hills, the swallows flew into the orange haze. I fired a couple of clicks of the shutter.
A horned grebe swam away from the bank below me, the sole grebe on the lake.
A green-winged teal circled and landed toward the middle of the lake behind a group of ring-necked ducks bobbing for food.
As I walked along the paved pedestrian road a hermit thrush froze in place on a tree within a few feet of me. Then a golden-crowned kinglet busily worked the next tree and I stopped to watch and attempt a photograph.
Eastern phoebes flew ahead of me along the bank. They didn’t seem panicked or afraid.They were casual, staying ahead of me as they searched the trees for insects.
A great blue heron flew from its resting place on a log near the shore as I passed by. I found another sunning itself on a log jutting from the bank. I stopped and took a picture. It stood there, aware of my presence but unperturbed.
The horned grebe muddled along the bank.
I walked to the road that runs atop the dam where I discovered another hermit thrush. It was not concerned about me. I walked within a few feet and it continued to hop along the ground searching for insects.
The thrush perched, raising and lowering its tail as it observed the ground for moving insects.
I worked to get a photo clear of foreground brush. I stalked the bird for 20 minutes, taking several photos while it was on the ground and perched in small trees on the bank.
I continued along the lake trail to a cove where I saw a large flock of rusty blackbirds drinking at the edge of the lake.
I’ve been looking for this species for three years to no avail. Now, here they are with the sun shining on them and no obstructions to block my view. I knelt down to become smaller and started taking pictures. They remained at this drinking spot for ten minutes before flying away.
I was thinking, “This may the best day I’ve had in the woods since I started coming here over two years ago.” I might even work up to a whistling mood.
I walked the rest of the trail, my feet crunching the frozen ground. I was alone on the trail. That’s quite unusual. I had the place to myself.
I went to my pickup truck and had a snack before starting home. As I was leaving the entrance to the wildlife area, I spotted a barred owl sitting on a street sign near the gate. I stopped and took a photo through the open window.
I edged the truck forward and took a second photo. The owl sat there looking at me.
I moved even with the owl, expecting it to fly. It sat looking at me. I snapped a closeup photo and drove away, chuckling.
Today was typical only in that I walked the trail observing the wildlife and enjoyed being outdoors. It was atypical in that I was alone for most of the time and the wildlife unperturbed allowed me to get close, unusually close.
It was a great day.