As I started out for a birding walk over the weekend - heading for a holiday picnic breakfast and early morning sightings - I realized I'd forgotten to toss my camera into my field bag. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but it always seems as though the one time you don't have a piece of equipment you need it the most. During this walk we spotted many beautiful birds that we see frequently: mourning doves, American robins, European starlings, and house finches. Several less common and equally beautiful birds were also in evidence, though they would never have presented themselves well for a photograph even if I'd had the camera on hand: yellow warblers, a northern flicker, western kingbirds, a bullock's oriole, a soaring red tailed hawk, and a synchronized flock of soaring American white pelicans.
Ironically, the last two birds we spotted were also the most amazingly photogenic. Pulling out of the parking area, I saw dozens of swallows diving beneath the road bridge and begged my husband to stop so I could get a closer look, owing that swallows are notoriously difficult to identify unless you have a chance to see them up close and still. I slid down the embankment to find that we'd discovered a colony of cliff swallow nests, and it was awe-inspiring to see not only the exquisite architecture of their many nests, but to also see their amazing aerobatics as they flew to and from each cavity.
Further down the road, we stopped at what we'd noticed should be another canyon trail access point in a less popular area, giving it all the best properties of a birding location. No sooner had I walked to the guardrail than I saw another flock of swallows darting and diving near the river, but of course with their quick motion they're often no more than blurs. To my delight, however, one bird fluttered nearby and perched on a dead branch not ten feet away. It posed, preened, and turned about offering a most excellent view and positively identifying itself as a violet green swallow, arguably the most beautiful of the swallows with its iridescent green and purple plumage, white underparts, and sleekly tapered wings. Even better, it is yet another new bird for my life list, bringing my total to 135 unique birds.
How I wish I'd had my camera! Never would I dream of seeing such a beautiful swallow so close and in the perfect light. But even though I didn't have my camera and don't have a digital souvenir of the encounter, this beautiful bird is one that will be forever captured in my memory.