Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is Not a Bird

We get so caught up in seeing different birds visit our feeders, we often forget that other wildlife can take advantage of the bounty as well. In the past few weeks, several mice have snacked at my deck feeders, cleaning up the debris spilled by birds and helping themselves to a few choice morsels. While I don't mind mice in the abstract and the occasional sighting doesn't bother me, they've been getting a bit too familiar for my taste... Yes, the traps had to come out. Fortunately, while a few of their brethren have gone to the Great Cheese Wedge in the sky, the rest of the rodent population has decided that my deck may not be the easiest spot for a meal after all, and have abandoned the buffet. More for the birds, then.

In addition to all my backyard birds, the mice are only the latest of wildlife to join the ranks in my yard and feeders. Other transient guests have included deer (noted by the gifts they left behind), snails (which loved the smorgasboard), snakes (which loved the mice), the occasional neighborhood cat (which didn't love my reaction to their presence), one of our neighbor's dogs (just exploring), and most intriguing of all, the American mink (had to look that one up) earlier this summer.

It isn't always easy to strike a balance between what wildlife you will welcome and what you will not. The snakes and mice are most unwelcome in my yard and I take steps to discourage and trap them whenever necessary. Feral cats - or cats of any variety - are likewise unwelcome. Other critters, however, are always welcome for a passing visit, though granted, I don't know how I'd feel about their constant company.

What critters keep you company at your feeders, and how welcome are they?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bearly Birding

Last weekend, on a short 36-hour break, I had the opportunity to return to one of the most impressive wildlife refuges I've ever seen, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. In Brigham City, this facility has an extensive and exceptionally lovely visitor center, and the 12-mile auto tour loop is a dozen miles of fantastic habitat and even more fantastic birds. While my husband and I weren't in the area strictly for birding, I couldn't resist, and even just a couple hours of driving amounted to a right pretty list of birds, among them...
Perhaps the best of the birds was one of those I've seen most infrequently - the great horned owl. But it was a bittersweet sighting; I'd been hoping its roosting spot at the start of the auto tour loop would instead be occupied by a barn owl, a raptor long missing from my life list. But just because we don't always see the birds we hope for, doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the birds we do see. That's something that in the hustle of daily life and the stress of everyday that we too often forget.

I need to remember to get out more, no matter how short the break, and not to forget the birds.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Mirror for Life

Getting into a back-country, isolated spot is always a peaceful, reflective experience, none more so than last weekend's trip to Mirror Lake, high in the Uinta Mountains. Right at the treeline, this calm lake sits at the base of Bald Mountain and features a fine path completely around the lake, great for birding. Granted, the wind was up a bit when we visited which meant the birds were down, but we got great looks at mountain chickadees and saw a passing flock of gray jays - a new lifer for me. But what's more, along the shores of a lake named for reflection, we had a chance to reflect on ourselves.

There is a lot of hate in today's society, whether in small degrees or large reserves, and immersion in it has kept me from birding for far too long as I deal with the consequences and make attempts to mend fences that are not only broken, but battered, shattered, and abused. There is far too much to love instead - the brilliant warbler-yellow trees in autumn, the gentle yet solid feeling of a well-worn path beneath your feet, the liquid chattering of chickadees overhead, the richness of decadent brownies given by a friend - and we're done with hating. Are there people we hate? Absolutely, and that won't go away, not by a long stretch. They know who they are, and despite what they may have deluded themselves and convinced others to believe, I can only hope they also know what they've done. When a hand is reached out only to be slapped away with lies and accusations, don't expect it to be reached out again.

May you find time to reflect this autumn, whether along the shores of a solitary lake, under the foliage of a colorful tree, or in the warmth and comfort of your own home. Reflect, let go, and let live. Then, go birding.