Discover more from Life in the Real World
One of Those Days
September 17, 2023
It’s cold enough I wear a sweater and a light jacket. All is quiet out on the lake. Fog is dancing over the water and the sun illuminates it as it lifts above the horizon. A few ring-billed gulls vie for king-of-the-buoy rights while a blue heron and a great egret stake out an uneasy alliance in the best fishing spot.
I see movement, briefly, by my foot. A tiny frog jumped and it takes me a while to locate him again even though he’s sitting in plain sight. It happens a few times and I can safely say I cannot find any of these little guys until they move.
I can hear mallards just around the corner, a large group of thirty or more preening and sparring with each other. The mallards had a lot of youngsters this year! Every once in a while a feather floats around the corner. I’d know they were there even if they were quiet - but mallards are rarely quiet.
It’s very still in front of me, but when I turn around there is movement everywhere. A swirl of chimney swifts swoop low over the top of the trees and down over the grass, catching some of the plentiful bugs. They zip right by my head, almost impossible to photograph when they move this fast and this close. I never know how to count when they move this fast but I’d guess it was thirty or possibly many more.
Dozens of cedar waxwings arrive and begin flitting in and out of the trees. They perch, tilt their heads watching the bugs, quickly dart out of the tree, spin around, catch a bug, and zip back to the branch again. So many birds repeating this pattern over and over reminds me of watching lightning bugs in the dark.
The area is small, maybe 12 yards wide and 50 yards long at the most, with trees and bushes in a thin line on each side covering the slope between the land and the lake. A lot of birds in a very small space! Watching the cedar waxwings, I notice two downy woodpeckers, one male and one female, chasing each other about in the tree. A juvenile red-bellied woodpecker pops up on a branch for just a minute and then flies off across the cove.
Another little bird catches my eye, scooting along the trunk of the tree and then out along the branches. Black and white, like the little woodpecker, but this one moves differently. When I finally get a clear view between the leaves I see it is a black-and-white warbler! The warbler appears and disappears - perhaps there’s more than one? I honestly couldn’t be sure.
As I photograph the black and white warbler, I see a flash of yellow. It disappears and I have to wait. Watching, looking, hoping to see that flash of yellow again. Then there it is, up on a branch ever so briefly before it dives back into the thick bushes - and I have no idea what it is! It only stayed a minute, I got three photos, and left the identification for later. (Ok, I got the identification wrong at the time, but corrected it later. I’m definitely no warbler expert!)
As the sun rises I’m feeling warm in this extra sweater and I’m feeling the pressure of needing to get to work, but it’s just too hard to walk away from all this activity. These days aren’t a given, I never know if or when one will come up, so when it does I try to squeeze in every last minute. It’s a big migration day and anything might appear. For instance, I see a woodpecker fly by my head and land only briefly but I knew it right away - red-headed woodpecker!
Walking slowly back towards the car I find another tree full of little birds. Several northern parulas move through the branches. A yellow warbler pops up to say hello. Very briefly a common yellowthroat shows up in my camera lens. One of those days - where anything can happen!
This week the human world has been loud. My routines have been disrupted. My job has been stressful. Unknowns, noise, and people in my space have not pleased my nervous system. Tension built in my body, I struggled with sleep, I struggled to do all the things I’ve learned to do that help. I’ve woken up tired and it’s taken my body a while to settle even in the morning.
In a week like this, I notice how Nature saves me even more than usual. The call of beautiful surprises gets me out the door and gets my body moving on the earth. The trees, the birds, the water, and the sunrise tell my nervous system it’s ok, at least for a moment. The added joy of unexpected birds is icing on top. I am ever so grateful for every one of these days.
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