It's hard to be enthusiastic about birding - one of the small pleasures of life - when life continues to give you a thrashing. Between dramatic shifts in family dynamics, increased work loads from contract alterations, uncommunicative communities, rampant societal entitlement and all the little catastrophes that occur on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, there never seems time left for even the least of birding.
Still, birds are there, and while I may not have time to get out into the field to see more of them, I can still remember with great fondness my favorite of birding walks. It's a roughly two mile loop, stretching from my childhood home, along a very familiar route to what was once my grandparents' house (and is now my uncle's), then along a delightful trail alongside Bear River. The trail winds through a variety of riparian habitats with varied vegetation that nurtures a wide range of avifauna, to the waterfront of Little Traverse Bay, which provides delightful inland coastal habitats. The return leg is through the charming downtown area, where different urban species often make an appearance.
The route may be short and the area compact, but I can easily spend hours enjoying the birds it hosts, and still I often feel rushed with obligations that keep me from lingering as long as I would like. My greatest regret is that during my childhood when I had nearly unlimited time to spend along those trails, I was more interested in getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, often biking without regard for the feathered life that would surely have been flying all about me, even then.
Still, the only thing we can do with past regrets are to keep them past, and strive to make the future a better one. Every time I return to my old habitat, I take advantage of the opportunity to walk that trail again, and it never disappoints. During an emotionally turbulent visit this past spring, the trail nurtured me as much as the birds, and when paused in a clearing to watch warblers flitting in the trees or stepping into a thicket for a better view of the riverbank, I was still able to appreciate its wonders. It still didn't disappoint, as I saw a lifer palm warbler along the trail, reminding me that no matter what type of beating life has in store for you, there is always more of life to discover and enjoy.
We just need to take a walk - into our future, into the possibilities, into birding.