Friday, July 3, 2009

Too Much, Too Long

I'm ashamed to realize and admit how long it's been since I've posted here, more than a month in fact, but June was a very full and very hectic time. The highlight of the month was a wonderful trip to northern Michigan, where I grew up and first developed my interest in birds from the seagulls we used to feed at the waterfront to the blue jays that perched outside my bedroom window demanding peanuts.

It is amazing, returning to an area I've lived for decades, only to realize just how much birding life I missed while I was there. The trip began well, with a stop in Elk Rapids at a roadside park I remembered from my youth because of its huge concrete swan. Appropriately enough, this is were my family used to stop on trips downstate not only to stretch our legs, but also to feed the Canada geese and mute swans that live there. The swans and geese are there still: we saw a family of geese (just as aggressive as I remember) crossing the road, and the swans were out in the lake peacefully and gracefully feeding.

Once in northern Michigan, I was privileged to participate in a birding field trip with the local Audubon chapter. Trekking through the woods, I was able to add several new bird species to my life list, birds that don't live here in Utah. In addition to that trip, we took several long walks through my hometown and along a beautifully wooded trail near the Bear River that leads to Little Traverse Bay. All told my new birds for the trip -- even without much dedicated birding -- are:
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • White Throated Sparrow
  • Rose Breasted Grosbeak
  • Common Grackle
  • Baltimore Oriole
In addition, I saw many more familiar and welcome birds, including blue jays, American robins, cardinals, house sparrows, ring billed gulls, northern flickers, European starlings, and many others. In truth, it was a refreshing and amazing trip, not only to find new birds but to realize how many had always been there that I'd simply never seen.

Don't neglect your own backyards, local parks, and scenic walks when you're interested in adding to your life list. You never know what may be there, and you don't have to go far to find new feathered friends to enjoy. The Baltimore orioles I saw, a brilliant pair of birds, were chasing one another through a stand of aspen trees near the river less than a mile from my childhood home, yet in all my years there I'd never bothered to notice. How I wish I had!

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