Saturday, October 15, 2011

The White Bird's Shadow

Everyone has passion, obsession, and admiration. Some of us feel this towards practical things, such as cooking or crafting. Some of us feel this towards birds. I like to think birds are the better option, opening eyes and hearts and minds to so much more than what's expected.

When one has a passion for birds, there's something about said passion that goes beyond normality. Birds awaken something within us, inspiring us to do things for birds we'd never do for anything else. For example, would I stand for seven hours fully exposed to the frigid lakefront gales for anything but birds? Highly unlikely.

This morning I did exactly that-- stand for seven hours on the shore of Lake Erie, with the Ohio Young Birders Club for our Big Sit. It should have been called a Big Stand In The Cold, really. Oh, the things we do for birds. But we had a blast, and we saw birds, and we raised money for conservation: time well spent, in my opinion! 30 species were tallied, including

  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Caspian Tern
  • Bald Eagle
  • American Coot
  • Bonaparte's Gull
  • Great Black-Backed Gull
  • Greater Yellowlegs 
and more! It was quite an experience and definitely great bonding time for all. I enjoyed talking with Ken Keffer as always, and Kayla, Nathan, and the other teen birders! Kenn Kaufman paid us a visit, sharing his knowledge in his friendly, easy-going way. ( I know am better able to distinguish immature Black Backed and Herring Gulls! Thanks, Kenn!) And then we have Mrs Kim Kaufman, who is ~awesome~ (hi Kim!). She also let me wear her BSBO jacket because I was freezing even with 6 layers on...oh and of course when I was changing into my new BSBO shirt, the wind was crazy. She attempted to block it with a blanket but the wind hated us. Thank you, Kim, for the valiant attempt. ;-) 

Let's not forget the "Exotic" species we spotted today. Some were pretty rare, so, prepare yourself:

  • Crazy Blue Coat Lady (go go go around the corner! flush that Green heron!)
  • Yellow-shorted Man (call the human hotline!)
  • Tumbleweed #1
  • Tumbleweed #2
  • Tumbleweed #3... and so on
Yeah, we were so desperate for new bird species to add to our list, we started watching the tumbleweeds. They kept making for the large groups of gulls and geese, only to swerve at the last second. We discovered they're quite strong sails against the wind...don't stand holding a tumbleweed in the direct wind! 

In all seriousness, though, we had tons of great bird sightings. We witnessed a pair of Bald Eagles bring in a duck as prey, and munch on it before bathing. Bonaparte's Gulls flew all about, flashing their white wing edges. American Crows flapped around the beach. Turkey Vultures flew low over the masses of mallards and geese. A young Greater Yellowlegs let us get some great looks at it, along with some Great Blue Herons. Ruddy Ducks proved a challenge to identify as they bobbed far out on the lake, but perhaps the hardest identification was the single American Coot in between the Ruddies. The wind made it impossible to keep the scopes steady, and those waves were crazy! The Great Black-backed Gull was a nice sighting, and we also saw two banded Canada Geese.

I was amazed at the resilience of the birds; they were standing in frigid water with bare feet and a single coat of feathers for protection against the wind while us humans were bundled in multiple layers and still shivering... there were even a few butterflies flitting around in that crazy breeze!! Nature is AWESOME. To think of the migration all these animals must's just insane. 

The day closed with my viewing of The Big Year, which is an outstanding film. It's actually quite inspiring, and had me laughing and smiling the entire time. I highly recommend it.

Truly, birds are amazing ; so amazing that sometimes I have a hard time believing such wonderful and astounding creatures exist. I know I profess my love of birds in almost every blog post, but they deserve it. Every day my passion for them is renewed as soon as I see the first Goldfinch out my window, or hear the first Killdeer calling as it flies over my house. I look at a bird and ponder its existence: how can something so small and light fly so far each spring and autumn? How do such delicate objects as feathers withstand beating winds and rain and snow to carry birds through the sky? 

Do you ever look at a bird and have only its shadow to confirm its reality?

I call this the 'white bird's shadow' effect: think of an egret. They are so light on their feet, always ready to take off. Their presence is buoyant and ethereal, and their pure white feathers glow in the sunlight. They are magical...angelic...almost too good to be true. Sometimes only their shadows remind me that they are, in fact, real...

~Peace always,


Kimberly Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

Congratulations on the big sit and making it out alive! Now wait until January and stand on the lake front...THAT'S COLD!

GumbyandPokey said...

You couldn't have described our Big Sit better. I really enjoyed those eagles! It's quite an amazing experience to see a full-grown Bald Eagle splashing about in the water of Lake Erie like a robin in a bird bath!!!!
One more thing... we actually tallied 31 species: I managed to hear the call of a last-minute downy woodpecker over the howl of the wind, as we were preparing to load into the bus and head off.

Hope to see you at the conference! --NATHAN

Kimberly Kaufman said...

Dear Kristina,

If we could gather up all the young people in this country who had your attitude, your mind, your love of birds, your talent, and your grace, and make them a consulting team for every national birding / bird conservation organization in this country - they would all be more effective, more dynamic, more focused, and much more fun!

Thank you for capturing the essence of our special day through your remarkable essay. Your blog allows us to view the world of birds and nature through your eyes and that is a magical thing indeed.

Congratulations to you and all of the other members of the OYBC for keeping our hope for the future alive and kicking.

With appreciation and admiration,

Kimberly Kaufman