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April 22, 2012

In spite of the rain, the wind, the fog, the mid-April cold, yesterday morning was magical (largely owing to Carl Zeiss, and not my own birding talent, mind you). I hadn’t recognized what a difference good binoculars could make! Of course, I still have the same difficulty actually finding the bird, and still don’t really know what it is once I’ve found it (though my guesses are becoming less ridiculous, I think), but once I’ve got it in my field of vision it is brighter and sharper and clearer than ever before!

The highlights yesterday morning were few and far between. We saw next to nothing, but what we did see felt larger than life. Even the tree trunks commanded my attention like never before. I watched a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pound its way into a hole in a tree trunk, assiduously, relentlessly barely stopping to catch his breath. I marveled at his work ethic and fierce determination. I don’t remember ever seeing that particularly burning shade of red extend all the way over his head and neck — almost like a deliberate, freshly dyed mohawk hairdo — or his black and white striped plumage in such startling precision. I’d like to find a winter coat just like the barred plumage on his back. (If you know of such coats or where I could procure one, please let me know!)

Photo by Ken Schneider from here

There was also a stunning Yellow-rumped warbler, a Mockingbird, some swallows flying over the water, a Red breasted Merganser and his common-law female partner, and a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), which I accidentally mistook for a most common of mallards, and subsequently blushed and shuddered at my own ignorance.

All of this took place on the dampest, dankest, windiest of April Saturdays, and yet there was still magic. Not necessarily the magic of list-checking and identifying, but very much the magic of looking closely, observing, discovering and, in the end, seeing anew.

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