Bird Watching

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Spring has arrived full-glorious in the North Country. Not in color and leaf yet, but in song.

Walking yesterday in Richardson Nature Center we saw:

  • Cardinals
  • Bluebirds
  • Crows
  • Mallard Ducks
  • Wood Ducks
  • Hooded Mergansers
  • Canadian Geese
  • Ceder Waxwings
  • Osprey
  • Nuthatches
  • Assorted Others

We also heard Red-Wing Blackbirds and saw a muskrat and a beaver.

I say “Assorted Others” because after years of quite-amateurish bird watching, there are scores of local birds I still struggle to identify. The subtle differences in sparrows, vireos, and wood warblers completely eludes me. I can never say for sure what I am looking at and so my “Birding List” is hardly complete.

I think we may have seen a Golden-winged Warbler, for example, but I can’t be sure. It could have been half a dozen small birds with yellow on the wing or shoulder. In birding, as in life, subtle differences matter much.

I enjoy bird watching for the same reason I enjoy carrying a camera with me when I am out in nature. It forces me to slow down and pay attention. To focus on the moment. Something my restless, wandering mind has difficulty doing.

I also enjoy it because it reminds me of what is most important, Beauty.

For the poet, there is nothing more important than re-focusing on Beauty. For as Keats, who wrote some pretty good poems about birds, once said:

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’



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