Knowing to expect that every last hooded merganser will take flight to the farthest edges of the pond when I raise my lens confirms to me that I know one aspect of this species pretty well.
Waiting for the local pair of osprey to begin setting up housekeeping in mid-March or the woodcock to twitter and spiral through an early spring dusk or merlins to streak low through the dunes in late afternoon looking for a meal to keep them through a night’s chill… all enhance my awareness of life’s insistent rhythms and set a pace for my own schedule in harmony with a larger, more universal system.
There’s also the realization that birds have important lessons to teach us; about being careful and its necessity for survival (hoodies are overly careful, I think) and about beauty and stirring the imagination (think of a flock of terns dropping from the sky into the summer blue bay or a scarlet tanager suspended in an oak) and also, they teach us about hope.
I found that hope looking me squarely in the eye a few weeks ago. Along an often-walked path through the local woods, I looked up a tree trunk one afternoon to find it looking back at me, in that magical way that owls have of appearing out of nothing. I’d stopped looking for screech owls along that path a couple years ago when their nesting box was vandalized, but this one had found a little hole in a nearby maple with which to frame his unblinking face. I think we both were somewhat shocked to be seeing one another, his face full of concentration at not being seen and mine one of pleasant surprise at learning that sometimes good birds are closer than we think.
What good birds have you found lately and what did they offer you?