Bird brained stories!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

When two hobbies collide...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I've never felt it to be a bad thing to have a large variety of interests. One can never be bored if there are enough things to pursue. The problem sometimes becomes one of picking and choosing, however. Of late, I have been having a blast by combining two of my interests; birding and scrapbooking. Throw in a third interest of "not wasting resources," and I guess I've covered three.

I've enjoyed trying my hand at bird photography, sharing many of those images right here. What then? My skills and equipment are not of a level that would ever allow me to seriously consider marketing my work; this is just for fun. I had started a scrapbook some years ago to showcase some of my best work, and that was fine--for a time. When I upgraded my equipment to digital + big honking lens, the number of photos that fit the criteria for "my best work" grew beyond anything reasonable for a scrapbook.

Enter my Birder's Life List project. I had the brilliant idea that maybe a little show and tell would be a nice inclusion if I should ever receive any calls for programs now that I'm listed in the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology Speaker's Bureau. I could print out my favorite photos, scrap them on a small layout of 6 inches by 6 inches, using up my too numerous leftover scraps saved from other projects.

I think I've created for myself a whole new hobby. In the past week, I've already completed nineteen of these layouts. Now, although my North American Life List stands currently at 206, I certainly don't have good photos, or in many cases, any photos, for all of those. Still, I have enough to keep myself busy for a nice long time. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get back to saving family or vacation photos in my scrapbooks now.

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who has found a way to combine this love we call birding with another passion. Share yours. Now that I think of it, I've combined one more; my Speaker's Bureau offering is a program of stories from world folklore, sharing tales of birds and why they do the things they do!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A break from real life...

Lynne commented yesterday on one of my other posts that one of the reasons she is attracted to birding is that when she's watching birds, the past and the future all fade away, leaving only the present. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it's true. How many of us have stood glued to our scopes or binoculars, watching the show, only to discover an hour has passed in that time that seemed to be but a minute?

I gave myself the gift of the present for an hour or so after work the other day. The past and the future have been nothing short of daunting this summer, leaving me tired and on edge most of the time. A warm afternoon, coupled with listserv reports of lots of migrants, sent me to a favorite trail in a county park just south of the school where I teach.

The present, on that day, was pretty quiet. Even the numerous Black-Capped Chickadees and various Woodpeckers were keeping a low profile. No matter. I could walk, stop, listen and look, and even if I wasn't seeing much, I was in the present...all cares momentarily forgotten as I snapped to attention with each flutter of the treetops out of order. The warmth of the late afternoon sun, the tang of earth as the leaves begin to fall off and add to the cycle of life on the forest floor, the little chirps overhead, all conspired to let me relax and forget for a short time.

There were a few migrants that showed themselves from time to time. American Redstarts, fanning their tails and chasing about, Magnolia Warblers, a bit duller but still quite dashing, and the plaintive, persistent cry of the Phoebe.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Along about 5pm, as I meandered the acorn strewn trail back toward the small parking area, an old friend began calling just on the other side of a brackish pond along the trail. "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" I've talked with this Barred Owl many times before, even had some face to face conversations on occasion. Today, it didn't want to call back to me. That fact brought me back to the reality of life, the one where communication is strained at the moment. Still, it was an appropriate reminder that, though communication is challenging, I still needed to be home, because, after all, I'm the one who cooks for all my folks.

I will make another appointment for escape soon. We all would do well to take Lynne's advice and escape to the present for a time as we sit in nature. Life will still be there when we return, and we can face it better when refreshed.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sublime moments

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I was lucky to receive a scholarship this past summer to take part in a workshop offered by Trees For Tomorrow in Eagle River Wisconsin, "Birding by Habitat." For five days, we went out into various habitats of the Northwoods, refining our understanding of why one might encounter Northern Parula Warblers in old hemlock forests. It was a wonderful interlude. While not everyone attending the week was a fanatical birder, all had an interest in being out in nature and learning more about these feathered creatures that share our planet.

As I reviewed my photos taken during this week in June, I couldn't help but smile at this Bobolink. We visited an old field one warm afternoon, filled with daisies. As we spread out and walked slowly into the field, little sensory delights would appear. A butterfly. A burst of color from an out-of-place wildflower among the daisies. Then suddenly, flying up from the field, the bubbling song of the R2D2 bird, the Bobolink. Sometimes one would fly up in song, then drop back onto a stem. Others would simply descend back into the blanket of daisies. We watched as pairs would briefly chase, then alight on the weathered fence at the edge of the field. My roommate for the week, Ann, just lay down among the daisies and enjoyed. She said all we needed was a little girl in a prairie dress to run through the daisies.

Those Bobolinks have no doubt begun their journey to South America now, and the daisies are long since dried to seed. I still have the pleasant memories of that afternoon in the field in June. Like much of life, sometimes we have to grab these pleasant memories to pull us through as the days shift toward their inevitable darkness. Through those dark days, one can look back at these sublime moments, giving us hope they will return to our lives once again.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Returning to the nest....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Early in July, I had the pleasure of watching this family of Flickers at close range. Choosing to nest inside this tall snag outside the door of the family cabin, they were easily watched. Morning was my best light, and I would simply park my lawn chair in a good location, camera in hand, and wait. Wait some more. Watch as the parents would oh so carefully approach the nest hole. They would not fly directly to the begging nestlings, but perch nearby, watching. Slowly they would move closer. Why they thought such stealth was needed was a bit mysterious, as the clamors of the two nestlings pretty much revealed their location, anyway. Instinctive protectiveness, a parental characteristic that crosses species lines, was the likely explanation.

I've not had many opportunities to watch birds in the past two months, nor the energy or interest to do so. My own parental instincts have reflected those of this Flicker, cautiously approaching and retreating, even though, much as with these near-fledgling birds, my ability to have an influence has largely been a creation of my own active imagination.

Lemonade is still going to be awfully sour around here for a long time, I'm afraid. Nestlings will clamor in a way that attracts unwanted attention, parents will wring hands in spite of themselves, and hopefully, as for these birds, life will eventually sort itself out. There may well be symbolism involved in the fact that the next phase in this saga coincides with the annual start of migration. Though I've little interest, or ability, to get out and enjoy this amazing phenomenon, I realize it will happen whether I'm out there or not. Perhaps once again, birding serves as a metaphor for the joys and anguish of the lives of those of us who enjoy it.

Locations of visitors to this page