Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Life in Pigeons

Life gets away from us all too often, with days spent in offices and in front of computer screens, and we begin to think that any venturing outside those artificial constraints is a waste of time. What we forget, however, is how little time it can take to spread our wings.

It took me less than an hour to stretch my wings a bit, just a couple miles from my office but sufficiently into the nearby foothills to find a new lifer - my first this year. Each year, there are reliable but faint reports of pigeons nearby; not the common rock pigeon, not the Eurasian collared-dove that is omnipresent in my own backyard, not escaped pet pigeons, but the southwestern specialty that is the colorful band-tailed pigeon.

Finally, I couldn't resist. Up a half hour earlier than my normal already early time, I tossed my field guide in the bag, checked my too-little-used binoculars, and took note of the directions to the exact neighborhood where these birds had been casually reported. The drive took just a few minutes and the parking was on an easy suburban street. Bag in hand and binns around neck, I strolled through a few streets, watching the wires and poles that are favored perches for most pigeons. Then there it was - a large, obvious pigeon-like bird at the top of a sunlit electrical pole, just basking in the morning and benevolently surveying its territory. It only took a glance through the bins to confirm the black-tipped yellow bill and the iridescent nape that identified my lifer band-tailed pigeon.

I watched the bird for a few minutes as it looked around and even turned position to give me a clear view of the dark band on its tail. The sun continued to rise over the valley as I made my way back to my truck, and in less than an hour from the time I left, I was back home. Less than an hour, but with weeks' worth of frustrations and stress fading just a bit in the light of a pleasant birding walk.

The stress will be back, the frustrations won't go away, and more hours need to be spent in the office than in the field. But the next time you're feeling the urge, don't ignore it - take a lesson from a lifer pigeon and enjoy a morning in the sun.

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