Social media reminded me today of what I was doing exactly four years ago. Turns out I was cataloguing photos from our trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. On this particular day in 2016, I was curating photos of one of the most amazing birds I've ever seen, and one I'm sure I had never before know existed: the lilac-breasted roller. It is an incredibly vibrant, colorful, and unreal creature.
Seeing pix of this amazing bird today filled me with nostalgia. It doesn't even seem real, that we ever got the chance to travel to such amazing places to see such awe-inspiring things. It made me feel both grateful for those opportunities and anxious to know if and when we'll get to go so far again.
I have loved birds my entire conscious life. I remember sitting in my closet (?!) for hours as a kid, poring over my Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. I would draw some of the birds and just wonder over others, earmarking some for particular consideration: the scarlet tanager, the cedar waxwing, the painted bunting, the snowy owl.
A lot of my interest in the subject came from, and was much later reawakened by, my mom's younger brother: Uncle Dale. He's a bit of a myth in and of himself. When we'd visit him in Canada when I was a kid, I was entranced by the fact that chickadees in his yard would come right up and land in his hand in order to receive sunflower seeds. Decades later, I've had the pleasure of accompanying him on two successful quests to see the last of my top four childhood wish birds: the snowy owl.
I have had many many opportunities to photograph incredible birds in the past five or so years. I go to Conowingo Dam--just 45 minutes away--to see bald eagles quite often, and photographing them has given me the training to catch wonder in the air and just above the water. I've also traveled as far and as widely as I can manage, getting the chance to see a lovely variety of warblers and raptors, chickadees and cranes, from many corners of our country and others.
So...back to today. There I was, feeling all nostalgic about the past and the birds which I have gotten to opportunities to see. To combat the blahs, I decided to head out toward the vineyards in The Brogue, to see what I would see within the space of just one hour. Then magic happened.
My eyes were quickly drawn to some of the endposts in the vineyards, where interesting birds were landing. I crept closer to investigate, and realized that, in a certain corner of the vineyard, we had a coming-together of incredible birds species: multiple American kestrels, northern flickers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and blue jays. I have no idea why these four strong species were co-existing in this particular corner for this particular time, but it made for some incredible bird-watching. I saw kestrels and flickers squabble; I saw them make amends.
Later, as I've got the chance to look through the photos that I took during this hour, I've realized how incredible each of these local bird species actually is.
American kestrels: These are on my current top-five list of super-cool birds. These tiny and colorful falcons can hover, perch, and claw their way into my heart every time. Thanks to our friend Scott, who built kestrel boxes into the vineyard years ago, I get to see these beauties every year.
Northern flickers: These woodpeckers, when you really take the time to look at them, look like a species formulated by a committee whose members have imbibed some odd drug. From their blue eyeshadow and red crowns to their polka-dot coats to their yellow-backed tailfeathers, they certainly seem like anomalies. Whatever. They make themselves right at home.
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers: These gregarious birds show up often in our trees and at our feeders. The red on their heads would seem to be a better marker for nomenclature, but occasionally we do also get a glimpse of their namesaked belly color.
Blue Jays: These are busy birds. They are social, loud, opinionated, and gorgeous. I aspire to achieve their level of we've-got-this-ness.
So...well, lucky me. The thing that I most crave--an ongoing connection to nature and its creatures--is to be found right here at home. I feel these blessings. I see this beauty, and I honor it.