Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Winds of Winter

Two wintering Northern Parulas are hanging out at Glendale Recharge Ponds
As we finish out this month of December, I begin to sketch out my final works for this year. The cold winds have arrived reminding us all that winter is here in the US.

Over the past several weeks, I have just wandered random trails collecting data and enjoying our birds in Arizona. Recently I have done some counts along a rocky trail on Mt. Lemmon for a friend.  Yesterday, I went hiking 6 miles with another birder.  We watched from the distance as a winter storm blew over our desert dwellings.  The air on the mountain turned from cold to bone chilling cold.  My kind of weather. 

During a lunch break in a secluded fern forest alongside a tiny pool of water, we watched many birds come down to take a sip.  They felt the storm coming and were actively feeding in preparation for the snow that was about to fall. 

Chestnut-sided Warbler
I spoke with my birding partner about the way of the world.  The frosty winds blew through the canyon in the dark woods.  A Williamson's Sapsucker fed from a tree nearby.  

Birds are amazing.  They bring me such peace and happiness.  When I'm not with them outside, I read about them inside.  But during this moment in the shaded glen of perfection, I sat with my birding partner discussing the weight of the world .  

This Least Sandpiper is smaller than what this pic makes it out to be
So. What I am about to write is not easy.  But this is a blog about my personal reflections whilst in the process of discovering 10000 birds in this lifetime. I work with people.  I watch populations of humanity.  I listen.  I observe my surroundings.  And I feel unsettled. I know.  It's not the holiday talk you might want to hear. 

The wintering Zone-tailed Hawk hangs out at Reid Park for the winter. 
 During our conversation, we noted how the military base has been increasingly active here in Tucson.  Friends of ours have been working late nights.  Later than normal.  A sign, perhaps, that things are coming. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler
 Humanity has warred with one another since the day we came to be.  One would think that we would learn, but I have observed enough humanity on every side to know that not all things are equal or balanced.  This year has been rough on the US and other places around the world.  Fires.  Hurricanes. Drought. Bombings. Shootings. Then there are the birds. I have even noticed the changes here due to our fires in the various mountain ranges. Some of us suspect that the hurricanes have altered migration patterns of warblers which is why we've had a very good eastern warbler year in Arizona. The patterns are odd.  

Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow
 People shop and people go about their lives like they normally would. I think about all those who have lost so much this year and it breaks my heart. 

Female Summer Tanager
 I sat in that wooded glen thinking about how perfect it was. And I wish I could hide forever inside of that moment, safe and protected. 

My favorite pic of this series are these Red Crossbills, Type 2 from Reid Park.  This has been a very good year for them here in Tucson. 
 After verbally putting my thoughts together out loud with this birder, I felt sad. Is there a war coming and is there no way around it? One side pushes the other.  More innocent lives will be affected. I see between the lines. This isn't Iraq.  This is something completely different. After our trek, my thoughts still lingered on that conversation for the rest of the day. 

A Vermilion Flycatcher takes a sip from the bubbler
Anyhow, enough on this topic. I will say though that I have just shared with you some of the things that run through my head while on the trails. While you were looking at the pics(in a sense, birding with me), you were also following my thoughts.  I'm pretty sure we all do it.  Some birders will talk a lot while on the trails. Some birders talk to themselves:) I usually save my thoughts until we've found our birds. These are the things I process in my brain while playing detective out in the field. So thanks for reading through my thoughts here.  

 In a few weeks, my life bird hunt will take me up to Maine to visit my friend Kathie and her hubby Gus.  We will be doing some casual and fun birding around the coastal area. I'm definitely looking forward to the break.  

Ring-necked Duck
On a side note, I am ok.  I really am.  I'm just a deep thinker.  I work with so many people every day that all of their worries, concerns, and stories recycle around in my mind during my off hours.  It is why birding is SO important to me.  It's the silence from word that I crave after these busy times. The birds I've presented today in this post are from my research and data runs for Audubon.  Someone has to look over our birds:) Each of us can make a difference in their success. I'd like to encourage you to join a CBC(Christmas Bird Count) wherever you may live.  It can be as easy as monitoring your backyard bird feeder or as adventurous as a long hike on a beautiful trail. Contact your local Audubon for more information. I can't change the way of the world, but I can try and make a small difference in my own little bubble. Until next time!


  1. thank you for sharing your thoughts as well as your wonderful bird photographs.

  2. Thank you for these images, they are a gift of the nature. The birds, so ingenuous and subtle, invite us to think that the life is wonderful in all his conception. Thank you.

  3. What lovely birds! I'm sure you are right many birds are off their normal migratory path. The unsettled feelings for me are mostly due to the political upheaval we are experiencing.

  4. A beautiful selection of birds. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Have a wonderful holiday season.

  5. I understand your concerns, dear friend. I have been very worried about the state of things for a few years now...I've been following al that has happened and believe strongly that huge change is times this realization has depressed me greatly. Now I just follow along in a sidelong fashion, not allowing the badness in, s to speak. I can't afford to. But we all need to be aware, and prepared. At any rate, I am thankful for this year, and for so much in my life...and thankful for this beautiful, perfect world God created for us (Birds and other creatures, and all the glories of the landscape!)to give us Comfort through all of this. Hope you have a blessed Christmas. Loved the photos as always.

  6. Beautiful photos Chris and thank you for sharing your thoughts - we do live in such frightening times and the state of the natural world can also be depressing.

    I do hope you have a wonderful holiday seasons and a Happy Christmas with good birding and you can forget your worries for a while.

  7. Great shots! That flycatcher is a stunner. I have only seen one once - and I was led flat on my back to look into the canopy of a tree to see it. It was worth it.

    I miss real winters!

    Cheers (and hope you had a good Christmas) - Stewart M - Melbourne

  8. Dear Chris, I love that you are a deep thinker. Kathie


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