Saturday, September 15, 2007

Busiek Racers

This morning 17 GOAS birders and guests "raced" down to Busiek State Forest, a Missouri Department of Conservation Public Use Area 15 miles south of Springfield, Missouri. We were eager to greet fall migrants, and the cool, crisp morning held promise. The weather was ideal for humans, as we were met by many in the parking lot of the conservation area, including a group of cross-country "racers" getting in an early weekend practice.

The weather apparently proved to be less than ideal for birds as our fall migrant expectations exceeded our observations. However, it was great to be out in the field again with a great group of people. We successfully kicked off the fall field trip season, and it should be a season full of terrific sightings. On this morning, however, the birds took a second seat.

Where birds were concerned White eyed Vireos ruled the day at Busiek as we heard and saw over 20. but the true highlight for me was not avian, but reptilian. As others' eyes were on the sunlit edge of the forest, scanning for Nashville and Palm Warblers, my sights turned to a gray streak in the grasses. There I spotted this beautiful Blue Racer.

Many times in the past I've tried unsuccessfully to catch these speedsters, but today was the day that Nature sent me favorable conditions. The snake's metabolism had been slowed considerably by unseasonable overnight lows. I slowed its progress with my foot, and gently lifted it out of the grasses. Lisa, a warbler expert, quickly quipped, "Look, it's just like a Nashville." And indeed it was, its body transitioning from gray to blue-green to bright green to yellow. Its moist skin glistened in the morning sun.

Showing no signs of aggression, the cold blooded creature clung to the fingers of my hand, content to stay and to gather some of my inner warmth. For a moment I wanted to take it to my classroom to educate young people of the beauty and grace of this misunderstood reptile, but Sue reminded me of my conservation ethic, that of "enjoy, then release". So, I released this "racer" back to its grassy domain, where rather than speed away, it paused in the morning sun, long enough to let me capture its memory. I post it here, and give thanks for another day when Nature revealed her incredible beauty up close and personal.

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