It’s been a long time.
I’ve been studying up on migrating warblers and their friends — sparrows, shorebirds, waterfowl — for the last week or so. I’m keeping a running chart, adding a photo of a bird, or two or three, each day, as I try to re-learn identifying features and colors.
I used to know a lot of birds. I got into birds when I was in law school, and for years they provided a respite from an intense and competitive professional life. I had many wonderful opportunities ~ teaching as a volunteer at The Museum of Natural History, hanging out with photographers and eagle researchers, participating in field trips in Ohio and Ontario.
We kept up with birds as a family for a few years when the kids were small, but then . . . soccer, and school, and life in general intervened. For many years, I’ve gone out once or twice in the spring to look for the migrants, but I haven’t had the energy or interest to take them more seriously.
This year, I’m suddenly inspired. And so I am making these charts, and remembering. Some of the birds I could identify immediately; others are taking some work. But what I’m finding to be really fun is re-discovering memories of the people with whom I’ve spent serious bird time.
- Prothonotary warbler: BW, pausing on a dike in Ottawa NWR, to take a look at that shimmering golden-orange creature and saying, “Look at that sweet thing.”
- Ovenbird: A herd of birders at Crane Creek, determined to get a look at one small fellow scuffling in and out of the underbrush.
- Spotted sandpiper: HW, guiding us along a marsh somewhere, and explaining a flight pattern that I recognize instantly, 40 years later.
- Scarlet tanager: A young teacher, who would die in a car accident shortly thereafter, standing in the rain amidst a migrating wave of birds and exclaiming, “Black-winged redbirds!”
I saw a post a couple of days ago from a birder in Central Park, who had a nice long list of sightings from earlier in the day. My list from this past week is pretty short. But I feel alive and connected to the natural world in a way that has eluded me for a long time.
Image: Common yellowthroat, from Wikipedia.