Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tradition ...

Bolt goes on a Christmas bird count each year, and since he’s been stuck in the greatest state of all this year, I got to join him on a Texas Christmas bird count.

We left on Friday and broke the five-hour drive up with a brief stop at a lake. A cooperative roadrunner stayed in sight for so long that we eventually left it to look at thrashers and warblers. The lake was fairly empty, but a shore bird walked right past us. I’d spent so much time enjoying the species while Bolt and Lynn attempted an identification in October that I should have known immediately what it was. I didn’t though, and Bolt had to tell me that it was a Least Sandpiper

We arrived in the booming town of Spur, Texas at 7:30 or so and stopped at a tiny Mexican restaurant for dinner. The curve-billed thrashers were life birds for me, and Bolt had seen a life bird the week before, so after dinner we drove across the street to enjoy blizzards.

The bird count began at 7:30 the next morning. We gathered with some other Texans, and the leader divided up the territory. Bolt and I were paired with a father and his almost-ten-year-old son.

I enjoyed the count. I’d heard that they are often rushed and allow little time for enjoying birds, but I found enough time to watch while the others were counting. (I’m just overflowing with team spirit, I know.) I enjoyed the Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. Also, the overly abundant kestrels were fun; I felt very familiar with them by the time the day was over.

The day provided two highlights. The first occurred when we stopped at an abandoned shack. We tramped around for a bit, and soon, Barn Owls began flying out of the building. We guessed that there were three of them, although they seemed much more numerous. They flew into the surrounding trees and would fly away and back again, over and over. Amazing.

The second highlight was the turkey. We’d heard it for a while, and I wanted to see it. I’m not really sure why I’ve wanted so much to see a turkey, but I have. We drove slowly down the highway, scanning the tall grass. Suddenly, it appeared. I got a short look at it, but not long enough. A police officer stopped us to caution us about the danger of pausing in the middle of the road, and we didn’t see the bird again.

Of course I enjoyed the other birds too. The ravens and the hawks and the meadowlarks and the finches and the quail and the Pyrrhuloxia and the many other species that showed up during the day … 33, to be exact.

We decided to skip to compilation dinner and head back to Dallas early. Plans can change, though, and ours certainly did.

Friday, December 09, 2005

My election

During her times of little birding, another LOL member recorded memories. I’d prefer not to let two months slip by without any posting, so maybe I should follow her example.

I've been wondering lately about when my election first came. I know I started birding last semester, but surely the interest was there before that.

Like most people, I loved feeding the ducks as a child. That can’t exactly be called election, though; it’s too common. I loved watching bluebirds and cardinals in our backyard, although I never paid much heed to the brown birds.

When I was seven, I decided that I never wanted to leave Texas. I’d made a wonderful discovery: Every time I looked up at the sky, I would see a bird. My experimentations never failed. No other place that I’d visited in my seven years could make such a tremendous boast. This was the best state EVER!

But there was another state I loved. My grandparents lived in Washington. They had built a home in Semiahmoo, overlooking Semiahmoo Bay and White Rock Canada. Their beautiful house was two stories and had a huge balcony. The entire side facing the water consisted of windowpanes.

As it is with most houses, the kitchen was the heart of the home. Screen doors near the bay window provided access to a balcony spanning the length of the house, and outdoors and indoors mingled effortlessly.

And on the kitchen counter, a pair of binoculars resided. The binoculars provided close-up views of Canada, sailboats, and, of course, birds. I didn’t know many of them, but I divided them up into two groups: The Bald Eagles were Bald Eagles, and the others were seagulls.

The eagles liked to rest in the tall pines near my grandparents’ backyard. Whenever we spotted one, the news would circulate among my sisters and me, and we would all clamor for a turn with the binoculars. The glimpses were never long enough, but I think I can credit them with my love for birds.

Of course the election calling came in other ways too. Perhaps it came from my neighbor’s house with all of its birdfeeders. Or from seeing the nest at the arboretum that one morning. But undoubtedly, it came partially from those happy summers spent watching the eagles in Semiahmoo.