With a nod to Robert Frost, I’ve always been one to take the road less traveled, seeking new paths even in familiar places. I’ll approach an intersection and wonder, “Where does this road go?” More often than not, I’ll turn and drive on to see what new wonders await me.
So it is with the paths I walk, camera in hand, while birding in my favorite places. It’s rare for me to walk the same path twice in a row, and even if I do, I will switch from clockwise to counterclockwise to get a fresh perspective on the second trip.
That’s my m.o. at the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm, and after birding steadily there the last three years, I’ve walked just about every path there is. But not all.
This morning, I drove to the Reed Bryan side of the park and walked down the central path toward a small bridge where I typically turn to the left on either side of the woods straddling a creek.
While I did turn left briefly to follow some song sparrows flitting through the trees, I decided it was time to walk one section of trail I had not walked previously.
I turned around, crossed the path to the parking lot and walked uphill past the Reed Bryan observation platform and reached the boardwalk from which I usually turn off to head to the Pole Farm side of the park.
I kept on going along the boardwalk and followed the path to the end of the woods, where on previous hikes I always turned around. Today, I kept going and walked the trail until it reached Federal City Road. At that junction, I turned right to head back along Federal City to the parking lot, a stretch I had never walked either.
With the path paralleling the road only a few feet away, I wasn’t sure I’d encounter many birds. Surprisingly, I did.
Tree sparrows and song sparrows — one of the latter is at the top of the post — presented themselves off to the right, and a Northern harrier startled me by flying up out of the field.
While I have seen those species many times, it was fun to know their range extends to that sector of the park that I had not bothered to explore before.