Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bluebirds, Buntings & Paying Attention

2015 has been the year of the bluebird. It's been the year of paying attention. It's been a year of listening to life and of finding happiness in work, relationships, and home. That makes it a fairly banner year thus far.

Eastern Bluebirds have clearly been on Maryland's Eastern Shore for probably all of my 43 years. But I can't say I saw and noticed one prior to this year. And we've been over my thing for the color blue here before. Seeing bluebirds while on a run and coming home to look them up was my first "birding" experience (says the guy with the Great Blue Heron tattoo on his forearm).

Following that, I set up some feeders and sat and watched. I wasn't actively going out birding, just looking at what came around. It helped to be living at a veritable bird haven, but out my windows and while out running on Baileys Neck,  I saw the aforementioned Bluebirds, Cardinals, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, American Goldfinches, Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Brown Thrashers, Blue Jays, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, and Pileated Woodpeckers. Enough to pull me in to wanting to see more.

But it's more than just seeing birds. Author Lynn Thompson, in her memoir, "Birding with Yeats," gets it:

Sometimes I think that the point of birdwatching is not the actual seeing of the birds, but the cultivation of patience. Of course, each time we set out, there's a certain amount of expectation we'll see something, maybe even a species we've never seen before, and that it will fill us with light. But even if we don't see anything remarkable--and sometimes that happens--we come home filled with light anyway.

I'm not that good at patience. But when it comes to finding reasons to be outside and look deeply at the beauty around you, that's a lesson I've taken to heart.

Walking and (nominally) looking for birds at Assateague Island and Pickering Creek over the last couple weeks, the subject of the Indigo Bunting came up. A bird more blue than a bluebird, but not seen as much. Tractor beam on. Pulling up pictures and reading about them, they are around in the spring and summer, and winter in Central America. Hhhmmm... maybe it's time to go visit a friend in Costa Rica :)

But I've got it in my mind, the first bird I want to go seek out and find is an Indigo Bunting. But now I have to wait until spring to do it? Do you have any other buntings? Why, yes. Yes, we do. How about a Snow Bunting?

Mission confirmed. Buntings it is. I don't have a life list of birds; I'm not interested in just going out and checking off one after another. Whether trail running, hiking, biking, longboarding, paddleboarding, or bird watching, I'm of the John Muir mindset:

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

Being outside, the looking goes both ways: outward and inward.

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