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A Nuthatch and a New Year

September 23, 2012

Yesterday, I felt like a hardcore birder for the first time ever. It was raining when I went to meet the TOC group at Lambton Woods (and raining rather hard for the first hour of our walk), and there I was, binoculars in hand, traipsing through mulch, in search of elusive warblers (of which I think I saw a couple but they flitted by too quickly and I couldn’t describe the greyish brown patches to the group, and off they went to warmer climes, no doubt). A few years ago, this would have been unimaginable for me. And yet there I was… My regular group was off to see the fall wonders of Long Point, but I couldn’t manage a whole day of birding, so had to content myself with a more local outing.

I’m happy to report that the magic birding pants I purchased at REI in San Francisco are indeed magic: rain water rolls off them inconspicuously and I was left dry. The saleswoman at REI assured me that the pants wouldn’t disappoint; she herself had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in them. And apparently, they’re great for cocktail hour too, she said (I admit, she was rather appalled that I was buying pants for bird watching rather than climbing boulders). My gortex hiking boots (purchased four years at at EMI headquarters in Peterborough, NH) held up beautifully, and my rain jacket performed exactly as the label claimed: H2NO. (I’m a true sucker for gimmicks.)

The aforementioned paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with birds, but I was so pleased to be comfortable in such averse weather conditions that I thought it necessary to share my vestimentary success.

Anyhow, we saw two tremendously bizarre Mallard-Black duck hybrids floating around: larger than life Mallards with big white spots on their necks. Plenty of Cormorants, Herring gulls, a Great blue Heron flying overhead, dozens of chickadees, flocks of Blue Jays (which I’m embarrassed to say I still find stunning), a juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron, a Downy woodpecker up close, a Red eyed Vireo, and wonderful White-Breasted Nuthatch, which I’d seen before but had never stopped to listen to.

White Breasted Nuthatch. The one I saw was neither upside down nor holding onto a snow-covered branch, but you get the idea. I haven’t taken up photography yet! Photo from here.

Their nasal staccato call had a certain maniacal restlessness to it. I bet they were just hungry. In Lambton woods, people feed the birds regularly and the birds have grown so tame legend has it that even Downy woodpeckers can eat out of your hand, though honestly, the last thing I want is a Downy pecking away at my little fingers! (I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of me and the new Brahms Intermezzo I’m learning — op.117, #3 for those of you who are dying to know.)

In spite of the rain, it was a glorious morning. Speaking of wonderful things — last week, we celebrated the New Year, dipped apples in honey, and I contemplated things I have to be thankful for. And you know what popped into my head almost immediately? Birds! They make me happy. Even on mornings when I’m out in the rain, seeing things I’ve seen before, albeit everything looks bigger, brighter, and better through my Zeiss binoculars, I couldn’t be happier.

In the spirit of new years, I decided to put some order in my desk drawers and came across a postcard with a quote by Paul Valéry, which is a motto for my other, non-birding life: “Que faire d’un passé? Mais tu le sais bien! des phrases.” Loosely translated as: “What to make of one’s past? But you already know! Sentences.”

Happy New Year!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 25, 2012 2:02 am

    I’m very pleased that you were well dressed for the occasion. Nuthatches are adorable as, I’m sure, are you in your full birding gear.

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