It was cool yesterday. Cold and damp and windy and icy and I nearly stayed home. Thank heavens my birding friend Martha is almost as crazy as I am, and when she said she was prepared to brave the ice, I couldn’t exactly cancel. And I’m so glad I didn’t.
There’s always a moment on cold days when I contemplate staying home. When I couldn’t be bothered to put on my long underwear, my extra pairs of woollen socks, and all the other winter accoutrements, and when I’d rather just sit in my recliner, reading and sipping my coffee. That moment of hesitation is often deadly. It’s the same moment of hesitation that I fight against every morning when I wake up to swim and it’s dark out and cold and the last thing I want to do is jump in the water and start swimming laps. But I do it anyway, and once I’m in the water, I wonder who that person was who had hesitated, so happy am I to be swimming back and forth and back again.
All that to say the world is always better (from my vantage point) after I’ve been birding. And so off I went. The paths in the park were covered in ice, the conditions were treacherous, but we walked slowly and our perseverance (or foolishness) paid off. We saw a Snowy Owl reclining on the marina, twisting her head this way and that. I saw my first House Finches of the month (not that I keep monthly lists), along with American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and several Downy Woodpeckers. We walked around the park reminiscing about spring and remembering which birds we had seen where: we paid tribute to the culvert where we’d had the Virginia Rail in April, and the pond where the Least Bittern posed for exquisite photos, and the tree where I saw my first Blackpoll warbler just mere seconds after expressing a desire to see one, and the path where I happened upon six American Woodcocks in one place, and the open area where the Sora hung out, and the bushes where the Nelson’s Sparrow had been seen. So much of birding is connected with specific memories of places (and trees), and suddenly it felt like the park was coming alive, my feet felt less cold and it seemed that spring wasn’t so far off after all.
And just when things couldn’t get any better, we saw a Long-eared Owl hiding out in a tree, watching us from his perfectly camouflaged perch, laughing silently to himself. I couldn’t tell you if he was really laughing or not, but it seemed like he must have been. After all, isn’t it ridiculous to watch birders looking up and down trees for a sign of you, staring right at you but not seeing you? On second thought, I’m pretty sure he couldn’t be doing anything but laughing. The things we humans will do, just to get a good look.
I did have to take a half-hour-long shower upon coming home to properly thaw. But the birding in the cold was so very worth it.