Nine years ago this month I drove to Arizona, met some friends on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and then spent a little while lounging on the deck outside their room at the El Tovar. We were planning a hike down to the river the next day, and as we talked logistics and caught up I felt a shadow pass overhead. I looked up.
Sitting there on a chaise longue on a deck with a drink in my hand, and that’s how I saw my very first California condor. So I can’t honestly say that today was my best inadvertent birding day ever. But it might be the second best.
To wit: I looked up from writing this early afternoon at the hummingbird feeder outside the window, six feet from my head, and saw a mated pair of Scott’s orioles squabbling over whose turn it was at the feeding holes.
First time I saw a Scott’s oriole was just a day or so after that first condor: I was hiking alone in the Canyon, some of our party twenty minutes ahead and the rest twenty minutes behind, and there he was: a bright, chipper and aggressive male scolding me from his perch on a spent Agave flower stalk.
I’ve seen them on and off since, most notably on one day in 2006 at Wee Thump, when I felt as if I could walk forever into the desert despite the half cup of water left in my pack. But today was the first time I’ve seen them while sitting at my desk.
I did see them earlier this morning. I sat out back at 7:10 in my robe with a cup of coffee in my hand. I’m not sure whether it was the caffeine or the orioles that woke me fastest. This morning a pair of black-chinned hummingbirds was at the feeder. By noon they’d been displaced by a solitary female rufous. “That didn’t take long,” I thought to myself.