Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Who Are You?

My nephew stares at me for the first time wondering who I am.  He's such a cutie!  I'm not a baby person but this kid is awesome!
The cool breezes of the Lake Michigan shoreline called me back home this year.  And this time, I was able to share the birding fun with my friend Gordon.  Five months of planning went into this epic journey through the great state of Wisconsin. As I return, I find myself reflecting on so many different things.  

Bonaparte's Gull
So much has changed.  I've changed. My family has changed. Old friends are gone. Long time families have moved, disappeared or aged. The town has changed. My school is gone.  My work places have vanished as the factories have mostly all closed up.  It's a weird feeling to be a stranger in a world that I once knew well growing up. My mentors are much older.  So am I. As I travel the roads, I flash back to old hangouts.  I try to connect the spaces, but it's challenging.  

Chimney Swift
I walk the old trails and sometimes forget where the creek meets the lake. We work together and try to decipher the bird choir's music that surrounds us high up in the canopy of the trees. It's hard!  Slowly, we piece all the notes together one symbol at a time letting the birds guide us with their repeated songs. That too is different. I see Wisconsin through Gordon's eyes. And it's fun.  

 I find myself interested in checking out habitat and just exploring old hangouts for birds. I sometimes forget about the life birds. Gordon is on a mission to find lifers.  And so am I. This helps keep us focused as a team. 

We searched for new birds.  And we snapped photos of birds we didn't have pictures of.  And on and on it went......

The Woodland Dunes
Even Yellow Warblers held our attention.  They are common in Arizona during our summer months.  But still.  To see one in Wisconsin was awesome. 

Yellow Warbler
We heard well known birds making different calls. A bird sings differently in the summer than it does during the winter months. So it was a wonderful challenge rediscovering known species of bird that winter in Arizona. 

Difficult birds to photograph in Arizona were easily photographed in Wisconsin.  

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bug spray. Long sleeves. Maybe a tick or two. Gordon discovers quickly that I hate bugs with a passion:) 

We stop for photos and I get attacked by Horse Flies, Deer Flies, and Sand Flies.  And of course, the mosquitoes.  If that wasn't enough, a tick climbs my leg!  Paranoia sets in....Zika Virus, Lyme's Disease, and the Bird Flu enter my mind:) It sucks having Type A- blood:) Studies have found that the mosquitoes prefer type O blood, followed by type A and then B.  

American Redstart
Warblers plop around the trees and I try to hold my lens still.   While I attempt to get their picture, I feel my blood being drained from my body. I just remember that it could be worse.  I could be in Florida:)  Chigger bites are NO joke!

The magical greens of a dark forest hinder the photography at times.  I remember exploring most of it as a child.  But somewhere along the way we get lost.  And that's okay. I am so spacey sometimes:) Instead of paying attention to the directions, I'm following the bird song. That's how I get lost.  Gordon and Kathie can attest to that part:)

Eastern Wood-Pewee
We are exhausted.  Sleep.  I needed sleep.  Gordon keeps me on my toes.  Even though I'm home, he reminds me that if we snooze, we lose.  And when I write "lose", I mean losing precious time!  

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Here a spot.  There a spot.  Each day, adding new birds. 

Fledgling White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-eyed Vireo?  Or Yellow-throated Vireo? Or a different Vireo?  The calls were challenging as were the birds since they loved the shady canopy of the forest. Plus, they are not common birds for us and it took some time to remember their calls. Yet somehow, we managed to find them!

Red-eyed Vireo
We spent the time.  We researched the data and the habitat.  The trip to Wisconsin was a success.  More posts will be coming up from our travels.  

Female American Redstart
It was nice to be home with my family. It was great having Gordon along to bird.  During my time in Wisconsin, I thought often about the direction of my life. And I remember why I left so many years ago. I have a lot of admiration for the people who live there. It hasn't been easy for many of them with all the factory work moving to other countries or states. The recession is still alive in parts of the US. And unfortunately, my town is still recovering. Change is slow because tradition and memory are cherished in these parts.  That's why I call it my Shire. It is unique from the rest of the US where family names and local businesses still matter. My brother Adam put it best during a campfire while talking about the state of the local job market. "Dad, I don't want to move anywhere.  I like living here." He's right. It's a beautiful place to call home.

As the ancient ones pass on, old great homes become vacant.  Some are purchased by people wanting summer homes. Many homes are now owned by out-of-state residents. Adam's neighbors are from California and Missouri.  My parents have neighbors from Washington DC.  Poverty and drugs have infiltrated the community from large cities like Milwaukee and Chicago. Police now fight a hopeless battle against a developing "drug corridor". Giant corporation farms are trying to take over private farm lands.  And many of these private farmers are barely making it. All of this has challenged the small town existence of today's America.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time, I was frightened(and excited!) by the great big world out there.  All I had to do was jump from my "nest" and make that leap of faith.  I wouldn't have gotten to where I am today without the love and support of my family. And my community. I wish I could pass on the joy I feel to those who suffer from the "dark cloud" syndrome. But I can't. For many, alcoholism and drugs have become their escape. I had to learn how to leave that negativity campaign years ago.  And I still have my days....especially with my profession. It's never easy, but I do know this.  It's better to wake up looking forward to life than just existing.  

For 5 years now, I have found the faith known as "birding".  It is something that I find most sacred.  The members of this group are some of the best people I have ever met.  Their wanderlust, intelligence and curiosity have fed my own desires to know more.  No negativity.  Just a passion for our planet and the life force that surrounds us.  It took me awhile to find them.  But I am so glad that I have.  There is so much to live for.  There is so much to fight for.  And there is so much to discover.  On my 5th anniversary as a birder, it has become my life journey.  Until next time.......


  1. Glad we met. I always enjoy reading your perspective on things and looking at the wonderful images that you capture. Bird on...

    1. Nancy, I am so glad we met as well. You really have opened my mind about what people with farms can do to help preserve nature. It scares me that a corporation style farm would destroy it all. Thank you for the delicious pickles, asparagus, lunch, tour and friendship. I really had a nice time. You guys are awesome! I'll be home in winter. Maybe you'd like to do some birding in Collin's Marsh?:)

  2. what a beautiful post. i understand how difficult it is to return home and realize you remember hardly anything about the place that was/ is so dear. but, glad you were able to still have a good time with your family/ friends. your birding seemed quite productive during your visit. so many beautiful birds. hope all is well. have a great night~

    1. You do the same. Everything is going great. I do need sleep however and I think I might crash tonight. It's the first time that I've been able to sit down and write for the blog.

    2. Hope you have a wonderful weekend planned!

  3. Great post, Chris. For someone from another country, it adds a lot to my "picture" of your country. Many of our country towns and areas are also experiencing (or have) some of the same changes and challenges. Nature, and birding in particular, do give us so much!

    1. Thank you! Nature is the reason why I get up in the morning. And it helps keep my mind balanced in this crazy world. The old guard is changing and with it, we've got to figure out how to survive these times.

  4. I cannnot believe you have only been birding for 5 years adn accomplished so much in that time. Very interesting post.

    1. Thanks Margaret! I've been meaning to visit you soon. I just got behind my desktop tonight to respond. I've been meaning to do it for awhile. I've had a lot of people coming to bird. I'll have some time now for the next couple days to sit down and read. I look forward to it! have a great weekend and happy birding!

  5. A wonderful and very moving post Chris and congratulations on your 5th anniversary as a birder. I have enjoyed every single moment of your journey and adventures and thank you so much for sharing.

  6. It's not easy to go "home" but well worth it just to see that cute little guy. And to reflect on change. Glad to see there are still some woods in Wisconsin. Haven't been there in decades. My Dad was born near Rhinelander and I have fond memories. A good place to gratitude.


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