Seasons of Me!

"A glimpse into the life of a birder, beach comber, self taught naturalist, an antique dealer, and junker! There are many seasons that happen here!"

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Birds speak myriads to people...They speak of beauty, of music, of freedom, vividness and color. They speak of all feelings felt but un-expressable in our human ways. Some even speak of mystery and mysticism. And all is spoken through the heart. The messages that are heard are as varied as the people themselves. There is much to be seen, heard, and learned through the many different eyes, minds, and thoughts of even the simple people.
On a recent trip to the coast we spent many very windy days at the beach. Some days it was so windy that I felt like the Lord must be angry at us, but then I thought of these two bible verses: "He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the water, who makes the clouds his chariot, who walks on the winds of the wind..." (Ps 104:3) and "He causes His wind to blow and the waters flow..." (Ps 147:18). Perhaps the wind was not in anger, but more of a way to get us to notice more of the surroundings and to see how true our love of the ocean was. Were we going to tuck tail and run from the stinging sands that were sand blasting our legs as we walked the beach, or were we going to stay and endure yet another mood of the ocean? We love the ocean...we stayed...we endured...and we were blessed with the sights of many wonders and left with feelings of awe and feelings that have to be felt because they cannot be expressed in words.
About mid week I awoke early to the sound of nothing more than the laughing gulls speaking to me. The wind had laid down and all was calm. Just like that. The clouds were also laying low and heavy. With the sun shining in our hearts we headed to Ramp 44. We just barely arrived on the point when it started to sprinkle. Sprinkles turned into a light rain as we scoured the beach for gifts and found several nice whelks. We continued on down the beach to arrive at the spot where we had been squatting all week. It was the meeting place of the terns and the gulls with others dotted in. There were four species of terns, three species of gulls, dunlins, ruddy turnstones, willets, sanderlings, black-bellied plover, piping plover, and semi-palmated plovers. Making an appearance from time to time were the american oystercatchers. We had been observing this group all week--by slowing down and spending time with them, they spoke much to us. At times we felt like one of the crowd as they let us enter their world and into their personal lives. We watched their comings and goings. We listened to their conversations and watched their passions and fury towards each other. We learned quite a bit that week by living a simple life and opening our minds and hearts. We listened as they spoke to us.
It was not long before the rain began pelting down. We retreated to the truck with our binoculars and scope and continued our observations from there. The waves seemed to be showing some discontent as they rolled in harder and stronger. And yet the terns continued to sit--seemingly content for the time being--facing into the wind~always into the wind. It rained for about an hour and we continued watching from inside the truck--watching the birds, watching the waves, watching a mood of the ocean. As it started slowing down our visibility improved so we moved our observations back outside. The rain had moved on, the skies were still heavy and a thin wavering fog moved in. Thin and a bit eerie it seemed to have a voice of its own. And we listened. And suddenly~seemingly out of nowhere there were two black-necked stilts and a whimbrel! After having been there all morning watching the birds it seemed as magical as it was mysterious, that these birds seemed to suddenly appear from the fog and was standing in amongst the other birds trying to blend in. Being the striking birds that they are it was hard for them to blend in as they towered over the others. They became mystic birds to me as I wondered where did they suddenly appear from? Were they migrating and get caught up in the squall and come in with the rain? Did they magically appear out of the fog? Their beauty combined with this sudden appearance spoke the "myriads" alone to me that day. We watched them for quite awhile and even tried to photograph them~the fog seemed to keep obstructing the view as if it did not want that air of mysticism to fade from us. I do not think it ever will. The day, the moment, the memory is etched in my mind. It will always remain magical. But, being etched as it was I had to take one more look before I left...and don't you know they were gone. Just as mysteriously as they appeared from nowhere...they disappeared in the same way. Was it real? Oh yes, It was real!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Endearing Life Lessons

I can honestly say that I have a "true" and "meaningful" appreciation of all in nature. The seen and un-seen, the rare and the common. I can sit in my back yard and truly enjoy the comings and the goings of an American robin, a Northern cardinal, and a Blue jay. Very colorful birds to be sure, but still very common birds. Sometimes being "common" makes a creature too under appreciated by many. No fault to the critter, but out of habit by man we tend to take so much for granted the things we have much of~thinking that they will always be there. But is is actually amazing of what we can still learn by just observing the "most common". Take the Common grackle for instance...Here is a bird that is a bane to many people...why? Because it is so numerous? Because is is just a black and drab bird? Because it does not sing a pretty song? Well, open your eyes, your mind, and your heart~do some old fashioned observing of this bird-learn to appreciate some of the qualities that we hold in high esteem in the human world that are also found in the avian world.

Starting with looks...I do think the Common grackle is a pretty bird. A simple and elegant black~a high lustre black~with a purplish lustre sheen on its head. Check out its fashionable tail~a fine cut and nothing but style. And pride...note the pride in the stride of this bird. A strut if you will! Confidence! A shimmer of arrogance may seem to surface, but look can actually find a truly caring and dedicated bird here~a bird that sometimes has worry but never gives up. I know-I am pretty anthropomorphic and John Burroughs would by cringing right now if he could read these words, BUT, there has to be more than just instinct here. Many unforseen tragedies occur in the lives of birds everyday. I just do not think they could hold all the "just instincts" within them to deal and face with each individual happening every day!

Over the years I have seen many things that have become endearing to me. One of these events just happened to involve a Common grackle.

On a night quite a few years ago a severe thunderstorm rolled through...a real toad strainer. The rain was intense, there was frequent lightning and thunder and the winds rocked the trees...a full fledged thunderstorm. By morning though the skies were clear and the sun shined. All was refreshed and re-newed. I opened my windows and let the fresh and clean air in. All that day I heard the squawking of baby birds--hungry baby birds. I did not think much of it because it was the time of year. This squawking was consistent though and went on the whole entire day. Several times when I walked past the window and looked out I did see a grackle pacing on the ground in the yard across the street. It was always there the several times that I looked out. I do not know how many trips past the window I took before I realized that this grackle was pacing around a nest that was on the ground. The nest had fallen from the large cedar tree the night before in the storm. I then realized that this was where all the squawking was coming from. I decided to take a closer look--I crossed the street and went to the nest and the calling was getting louder. I turned over the nest and was absolutely amazed when I found two half grown baby grackles calling out profusely and the third one lying dead. All day long these nestlings had been crying out with their hunger and all day long the parent bird listened to this, in distress, and tried with all it had to feed and care for its young, but not being able to get to them. It had paced around the nest all day! A devoted parent it was though-never giving up and calling back to reassure the young birds. I instantly, at that moment, found a whole new respect for this bird! I picked the nest up with the young and put it up in the highest crotch of the cedar tree that I could reach. Before I could even get back across the street the adult bird was already at the nest feeding these famished babies. It did not take long at all for this grackle to find the new placement of the nest after being on the ground all day with it. I kept up with the young for the next week and they did fledge from the nest okay.

This simple and small observation gave me a whole new appreciation for this bird that not many are fond of. It gave me a new perspective towards it and taught me some other simple lessons to apply in my own life. One of Gods simple beings--winged beings--a simple lesson indeed. We just need to be observant of all life around us, to take the time, and see through to the qualities...May we never take any of life for granted!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Seeking Ourselves

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It's always ourselves we find in the seas~

~E.E. Cummings~