Biking and birding reminded me of several life lessons I have learned, forgotten, and learned again. First, speed causes us to miss details.
I think back to the native prairie by the bike path back in Columbus, Ohio. I used to ride by wondering why I didn’t see more birds. When I went by on roller blades, I saw more birds, but was surprised I didn’t see any hummingbirds. When I walked by, I saw hummingbirds but was surprised there weren’t any bees. When I stood completely still, it was like a magical veil was lifted and suddenly I saw an amazingly dense array of life, buzzing and hovering and dipping among the flowers. I am frequently reminded that sometimes, to really see the abundance of life, you have to sit still.
The second lesson was: it probably isn’t a good idea to point out birds–even really big ones–to a bunch of people on bicycles.
When we all pulled well off to the side of the path to stop and look, everyone was able to see the differences between a Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture, and many got to see an Osprey soaring overhead with no injuries.
As I watched these birds of prey, I had to wonder if they experienced the same kind of joy in catching a thermal and soaring on the wind as I was experiencing pedaling my bike through the early autumn breeze. Some may think that birds just do what they do for the purpose of finding food, but I have to believe there is a joy that comes from doing what you were born to do that even birds experience, particularly on a beautiful day. I find it impossible to watch the grace of soaring raptors without being moved.
As we made our way up the Riverwalk to the Curtain Pole Road swamp area, I learned the third lesson of the day. Sometimes, it’s not the birds that are the most interesting part of a bird walk. One of the other participants spotted turtles and frogs. Although the wood ducks were still my favorite (see photos from yesterday’s post), the turtles and frogs were pretty darn fascinating. By the way, one attendee pointed out that in the last Wood Duck photo in yesterday’s post, there is a camouflaged turtle right in front of the Wood Duck. I totally missed that!
The final lesson for the day was that we all have different levels of excitement about the same birds. I was so excited to stand and watch the Belted Kingfishers at Amnicola Marsh. I could have stood there all day with them swooping across the marsh, chattering away. In the meantime, most everyone else was looking for something more interesting.
Regardless, I think we all enjoyed the outing. For me, it doesn’t get any better. A beautiful day, a bike, a new group of interesting people to meet, some really cool birds, and my camera. What more could anyone ask for?