We’ve been ambushed by the flu for the last couple of weeks here at Birds and Words, which had me thinking all sorts of grim thoughts accompanied by a slight fever and an aching body. And under the influence of this mind-numbing flu that somehow engulfed everything, I began to forget how much of this year really was truly wonderful (in fact, just about everything save the last two weeks).
So a recap: 2014 turned into my birdiest year ever. I spent nearly every Saturday out in the field with my amazing, patient, wise birding group (well every Saturday until September hit, whereupon a tidal wave of lecture prep had me hiding out in my home-office for days at a time; by November sanity demanded that I spend Saturdays outside again, and never one to argue with Sanity, I obeyed. It worked; life improved. See previous posts about my difficulties with November).
I extracted my first bird from a mist net at the banding station, nearly died of fright, but did it anyhow. The bird in question was a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), one of my all-time favourites, and he was so confused and annoyed by said extraction that he proceeded to barf up berries all over my hand. And in spite of that, I found the experience nothing short of miraculous.
I completed my first Birdathon and wrote about it for Maisonneuve, one of my favourite Canadian publications. And I recently found out that Reader’s Digest bought the article, so come March or April every single doctor’s office in Canada may well have patients itching to complete a birdathon of their own. (Nothing wrong with wishful thinking.) 18 hours, 229 species including an extraordinary lifer: a Yellow-headed Blackbird.
I received valuable life lessons from an Acorn Woodpecker in Sedona, when I was so frustrated by my inability to find a Red-faced warbler that I nearly threw my binoculars into the recycling bin. A few seconds before quitting birding entirely and tossing my bins, the Acorn woodpecker busily tapped out a rhythm in front of me over and over again. He was so persistent I couldn’t ignore him, and the more I looked the more mesmerized I became and… to make a long story short, it turned out it wasn’t yet time for me to quit birding after all. I assume it never will be.
I saw my first Great Grey Owl, my first electric blue Mountain Bluebird, watched my husband feed Sandhill cranes at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver, marvelled at the Black terns flying low over Tiny Marsh near Barrie, fell in love with Canvasback ducks, found the dreamiest Red-headed woodpecker, and narrowly missed my first Pileated Woodpecker.
I also made countess mistakes, called out misidentifications, lamented the almost-seen birds, the just-flew birds, the “was here yesterday” birds and the “came just after you left” birds.
There was also a glorious CBC (Christmas Bird Count), one fall morning a week spent at the banding station a depressing morning of staring at hundreds of House sparrows trying to detect the lone Eurasian tree sparrow and failing miserably, and a remarkable Varied thrush and a miraculous Spotted towhee who’d lost his way and somehow found himself in Southern Ontario instead of California. And there were countless other sightings. And deep gratitude: for the birds who never fail to teach me something new just by being, for the ability and sustained desire to see them, for the urban parks and paths and trails that sustain me, and finally, for the people I bird with — they enrich my life by being my partners-in-looking.
It’s been a wonderful year and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring. Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a happy, healthy, adventure-filled New Year!