Devoted Birders! An unbelievable thing happened yesterday: I held a bird in my hand for the first time ever. It was a sweet, diminutive, remarkably complacent Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), yet I was terrified. Rick, the generous banding expert at Ruthven Nature Park, insisted I hold the Titmouse (after I adamantly refused to handle the stunning Golden Crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) for fear that the miniscule creature would attack and eat me). Rick keeps a fabulous blog with ample photographic evidence of spring and fall migrants in the Cayuga area in Southwestern Ontario (basically between Hamilton and Lake Erie).
It turned out to be a glorious day bathed in fall colors. The birds fluttered around, weaving their way in and out of trees, and I was once again reminded of the challenge of autumn birding. I frequently mistook falling leaves for birds — they frequently float through the air just like birds. The greenish-greyish-golden-reddish-rusty color scheme of the leaves also tends to camouflage the trilling avian creatures. Basically, the only birds I could safely ID were Turkey Vultures flying overhead in large numbers.
At the banding station, I saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker up close and found myself simultaneously mesmerized and terrified by his immensely sharp bill and long, slithery, lizard-like tongue that kept poking out while the bird shrieked with frustration. It’s a different sensation to see a bird in someone’s hand (or to hold a bird in your own hand) — a sense of precariousness, of fragility, of utter dependence, so unlike a bird’s usual soaring, fearless demeanor. I’m not sure how I feel about it all, and haven’t yet figured out the words for it, but I can tell you that holding the titmouse in my hand had a dimension of magic to it. A life enclosed, encapsulated, for the briefest of moments. OK folks, it’s official: I want to volunteer in a banding station.
With that, I’ll close and wish you all a wonderful thanksgiving. I’ll be busy tomorrow making purple potatoes (!), butternut squash soup, green beans, and apple crisp (thanks to my amazing CSA for the fresh, local and spectacular produce!).