Monday, March 28, 2011

Birding for Beginners

Walking in the woods to collect my thoughts is a habit I learned in Vermont; perfected in Colorado.

I grew up in a family of athletes. My dad played college basketball. My mom was a phys ed teacher and soccer coach. My sister a high school soccer star. My brother a quarterback. I wasn’t good at any organized sport.
I didn’t get an outdoor education until I moved to the mountains; the northern Maine woods and the Green Mountains in Vermont. I thought I was an outdoor woman because I skied, hiked, and backpacked. I didn't know a thing.

When I did do these things, I didn’t know the type of tree I skied between or the birds singing ing the trees or the animals that scurried past me on the trails or the tracks of wildlife that trammeled by my tent at night.

I did, however, watch my dogs run free, ears flopping but didn’t look for birds, wild flowers or wildlife.

When I lived in northwestern Maine, I’d hike with my friend Brad. The Appalachian Trail was ten miles from his house and we would often hike on it or all the trails near it. Brad would often stop to point out beautiful flowers or walk off trail to look for Trillium. I would get aggravated that our hikes would take longer for all his stops. I wanted to get to the top of the peak for the amazing view and sense of accomplishment. I was always in a rush to get to the top and, then, to get home. Not that I had anything pressing to do at home, I just wanted to hike, bag a peak, and then get back. I missed so mucy.

However, I do remember the flowers the beautiful pink or purple Trillium he pointed out; and perhaps can still identify today.

A year or two later, after living in Vermont and hiking with my lab, Abbey, I got to know the same trail in every season, for two seasons. I still couldn't name tree and flowers and birds, but I watched. Every day and every season, I watched.

I don’t know if this lack of learning is biological, generational or environmental. I have so many interests and want to do everything perhaps part of the problem. The phrase ’kill two birds with one stone’ in my world includes a long run with the dogs or talking on the phone as I drive to work, not hiking on a trail and trying to identify the bird in the tree by their song.

I got my first bird education at the Christmas Bird count in Granby, Colorado a few years ago. I counted  Ravens, Stellar Jays, Mountain Chickadees, Black Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatch, and Rosy Finches.

I remember a line from the book The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon: “Scrutinizing – touching what you are looking at with your eyes – you run all over the valley and look in on things that couldn’t see you looking, for what it was out there that you didn’t know and needed to know – scrutinizing people, the world, for the best story, for the truth.”

This is what I do now. I'm slowing down, looking for birds, learning about the outdoor world. I now feel like I'm more of an outdoor woman because I can identify the black capped chickadees in my feeder; maybe next year I’ll learn another one.

No comments:

Post a Comment