Thursday, January 19, 2017

Homecoming

"When did you start birding?", I'm often asked. So long ago that you'd think I'd be better at it by now. The year was 1989. I was a glasses-wearing nerdlet who was good at taking tests and so I got sent away on a bus once a week to take some extra classes. Loving animals, I chose a class about birds as my elective that spring. Large photos of local birds lined the walls and we often walked over to the little wetland behind the school to practice field identification. I saw Vaux's Swifts and fell head over heels for these creatures that filled my Golden Guide with more color and variety than my favorite Jelly Belly jellybeans.

Those glasses...

It's easy to give events too much significance in retrospect, but I see that class as the seed that grew into my studying birds in grad school, meeting Max, working at Audubon, writing a book, and being pro staff for Celestron. Good thing I didn't take a computer programming class instead. Money is overrated.

After being snowbound for a week, I was ready to go out and do some birding today. I checked hotspots in my 5-mile radius and saw one called Mason Wetlands (Not to be confused with the wetlands of the same name in NE PDX). When I zoomed in, I saw that it was the little wetland behind C.E. Mason school, the former nerdery. I realized that I hadn't visited it since my formative time there in elementary school and thought I'd check it out, for old times sake.

The wetlands are now a park with an address, but going there I found only houses and no access. I finally parked at a church and found a trail leading down to Messenger Creek. Thanks church!

Forgive those who trespass against us

Though overgrown with canary grass, the park has clearly gotten some love and newly planted native plants.


I found evidence of beaver activity and a low dam had created a pool that was unfortunately duck-free today.


I brought my little Celestron Hummingbird Scope because it's light enough to carry with my bad shoulder and small enough to stash in the car when I go grocery shopping.


My first experiment phonescoping with it at around 20x got me this photo of Steller's Jays. Lots of other birds were pairing up today too, including Song Sparrows and White-breasted Nuthatches.

 Is it nesting season yet?

I enjoyed seeing Red-tailed Hawks soaring and calling to each other, and watching all the little birds foraging in the snow-free landscape. A bit like stepping into my past, but with better optics.

Still a nerd

Afterward, I stopped at New Seasons and saw my book there. The Urban Birds chapter features Vaux's Swifts, which have been one of of my favorites since childhood, though I'd forgotten why.