Photo credit: Dan Lory
Heading south last week, I made my regular stop at Chicago’s Park 566. I was hanging out in the thick, brushy area at the northwest section of the park when I saw a person approaching, walking along the fence, maybe 50 yards away. I had not yet been spotted.
I’ve always enjoyed practical jokes, and this day I was in the mood for messing a bit with this stranger. So, from my place in the brush, I suddenly popped up just high enough that I could be seen, and then disappeared back into the brush and sat tight to watch what would happen.
As I expected, the person stopped dead, and then began approaching slowly, his eyes fixed on my general location. I chuckled as I watched him try to walk without making any noise. As if I couldn’t see him; he was right out in the open! As he approached, I silently moved to a place with better cover, and with a better view of this visitor.
He continued to approach, his eyes still fixed on the place I had moved from. I say he; I think it was a male. It’s difficult to ID the sex when they’re in winter form. Very often, only the face and hands are visible. It was definitely a human, though. Upright on two legs. Long arms, with large, raccoon-like hands hanging below the body’s midpoint. Massive head, with eyes facing straight forward, like an owl. Facial hair is diagnostic for male, but I could see no facial hair, so the face was not enough to make a definitive call on sex. It had short head-hair, which typically indicates a male, but does not necessarily rule out a female. The overall “jizz,” though, said male. You understand if you’ve seen enough of them.
So anyway, this male human walked up to a place about 20 feet from me and just stood there…and stood there…for the longest time. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be, so I hunkered down and enjoyed watching this specimen try to find me. Every minute or so he would raise an extra pair of eyes to his face, and peer into the brush, then lower the eyes and mumble something unpleasant. He would also make a weird “psshh, psshh!” sound every once in a while.
Then he relieved himself. That confirmed it was a male (males remain standing). I also knew this was a sign that he was about to abandon his perch. Sure enough, after adjusting his midsection a bit, he murmured something—as males often do—raised his middle finger in my general direction—as males often do—and continued walking.
When I was younger, this would be the moment when I would burst from my hiding place in a dazzling explosion of feathers, enjoying the look on the human’s face as I scared the daylights out of him. But I’ve come to understand that it is best to leave these creatures undisturbed, observing them from a discrete distance.
Plus, I got more satisfaction watching him walk away upset that he couldn’t find me and make a positive ID. He’ll probably go home and report me on eBird as an American Woodcock, or an Upland Sandpiper.
Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.