By the standards of most bird watchers, I’m not very good. I don’t have a life list, and I refuse to drive 100 miles to see a rare gull that has been blown 600 miles off course, just so I can say I saw it.
In fact whenever I’ve tried to chase down reports of rare birds, I’ve never found them. Instead, I always found something else, something that proves to be more interesting and amazing. I’m firmly of the opinion that you can’t really search for birds, that the best thing you can do is be in the right place at the right time and sit back and see what happens.
Two weekends ago, a friend and I were driving around looking for birds that have recently landed in Boulder County on their migration routes, but we were coming up empty-handed. In Eldorado State Park, we were told that a prairie falcon couple were nesting on Redgarden Wall, which we could see from the Fowler Trail on the opposite side of the canyon. Hiking up the trail, we saw a lot of climbers but failed to find the falcons’ nest or any sign of them. Instead, what we saw were swifts, one of the fastest birds in the world, hundreds of them flying above the canyon.
The more we watched, the greater numbers we saw, so at times they resembled a sea of gnats, so thick you could hardly see the sky behind them. When we sat down to watch them, the sky was full as they circled round and round the deep canyon in great, sweeping arcs, while the canyon echoed with their chirring noises. It was one of the most spectacular bird events I’ve ever seen—and totally unexpected.
At the cabin, I’ve been watching a house wren (above and below) that had its nest here last summer, in a birdhouse on a fence just five feet or so from where I sit, on the other side of the window, working at my laptop. From my unique “perch,” I’m able to watch the comings and goings of this bird and see bird behavior that most people don’t get to observe, as well as hear its beautiful song, unless you have a bird nest in your backyard and you can sit for hours and watch.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been watching it sing on its perch, and assumed it was singing for a mate. I even worried that it wasn’t attracting one. But Wednesday I saw a second wren stick its head out from the birdhouse, and then I saw the two of them flying off and bringing back dried stalks of grass to construct a nest. I’m happy, because the cycle of life that happens every spring has begun again.
That’s my kind of bird watching.