Bird brained stories!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Zen Birdism

Since it's my spring break, since the weather, until today, has been gorgeous, since I'm a birder...I've been out every day, even this morning, looking for birds. As I've done this, I'm reminded again of how birding can be a zen-like activity, if one allows that to happen. If one allows that to happen, the birding will likely improve, too.

Yesterday was a perfect example of Zen Birdism at work. I'd read a post on the mnbird list from Dedrick Benz about the continued sighting of a Carolina Wren on some trails in the bluffs of Winona. That would be a life bird for me, and even if it wasn't, it would still be cool to see. So off I went. Wherever I go, there I am!

I'd not hiked these trails before. More open than my customary woodland hiking in Hixon Forest, these trails are designated for mountain biking. There were bikers, but I actually experienced less traffic than I normally see in Hixon. The trails meandered all over the place, as did I.

I wasn't exactly sure I was following the right trail to the location of the wren, but I decided I really didn't care. I just went wherever I thought things looked interesting. Heading over a dry streambed, I heard loud calling between Tufted Titmice, and spotted them high in the trees overhead. Other sounds were heard as well; Ruby Crowned Kinglets were singing loudly, and wonder of wonder, I could actually see them. Nearby was a small flock of Golden Crowned Kinglets. These are birds that are usually heard, not seen, due to their tiny size, not much bigger than a hummingbird. Such a treat on this warm spring afternoon!

Wandering some more, I saw a flash of movement in the brush along the edges of the trail. The wren? No. Hermit Thrush! I hoped it would sing, but it was quiet today.

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I wandered all over these trails, at one point questioning if I'd even found my way back to the proper trail. I enjoyed watching a Black-Capped Chickadee excavating a nest hole in a dead tree. I'd never seen one doing this before, so I stopped to watch for a time, pondering the truth of the statement, "Not all who wander are lost." I was thinking maybe today, that wasn't true. I was worrying about that fact even less. Even when lost, eventually I find my way out.

Climbing higher into the bluffs, I found a wren and watched it skulking about in the underbrush, never getting a good look at its face, but concluding it was probably a House Wren. No matter. I wandered some more, eventually heading back down.

At a hairpin turn on the downward hike, I saw a flash of movement across a draw in the bluffside. Climbing on deadfall, clearly wren-like in shape and movements, there! White eyestripe, large size (for a wren), rusty color! Without even trying to look, the Carolina Wren presented itself for me to watch in the golden afternoon sun. Hopping around the deadfall, I'd lose it every so often as it ducked underneath. Movement in the grass to one side caught my eye, but no! It was the Hermit Thrush again. Still refusing to sing.

Not the Carolina Wren. High up the bluffside now, its song rang out---loudly. The guide books all mention the loudness of the song, but they don't do justice to the intensity and volume. It didn't choose to sing for very long, but sing it did. Wandering aimlessly, thinking maybe I was lost, the "target" bird presented itself, loud and clear for me to enjoy. Along the way were other surprises and delights, none of which I looked to find. That's the zen of birding...just being there and ready to enjoy whatever flies into view. And knowing enough to appreciate the gift you've been given.


  • Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop !! Viele GrĂ¼sse !!

    By Blogger ChrisWoznitza, at 1:10 PM  

  • LOVE your bird pics!!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Adrienne, at 3:05 PM  

  • Gwyn - I knew about the stories. Did not know about the birds! Do you know, I changed homes because I could not see birds from the old one? I can see & hear them now. Love it!

    BTW, the photos were done manually with long exposure time.

    By Blogger Ape Maya, at 6:48 PM  

  • Great tale! Your photo of the thrush is very nice. We have a pair of Carolina Wrens nesting on our property... Just a couple of days ago he perched just outside the skylight and sang for nearly half an hour. Know what you mean about the volume of his serenade

    Sounds like you had a wonderful day.

    By Blogger Endment, at 7:35 PM  

  • It's hard for me to imagine life without Carolina wrens--they have kept me company through my several moves in the past few years, and I am grateful for them. I like the saying that they have the greatest volume of song per volume of bird--yes that sound is truly amazing coming out such a small little thing. On the other hand, I don't get to see the hermit thrushes nearly as often. Life has its trade-offs, after all. Nice piece, Gwyn.

    By Anonymous homebird, at 9:33 PM  

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