Fall is well and truly here and winter is now approaching. The days are shortening, the weather vacillates from rainy and warm to cold and clear with fresh, frosty mornings. Banks of fog gather near the rivers and linger until mid-day, blanketing the world in white.
At summer’s end, I saw the last of the Brown Pelicans at the coast until next year. These birds will never fail to impress me, even though they were an extraordinarily common sight along the shore this past summer, much more noticeable than years’ past. They floated effortlessly over the water, back and forth, up and down the coast, and occasionally thrilled me by flying higher just above the rocky bluffs where I stood watching the waves, the birds, the wildlife.
Until this fall, I had only ever seen Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, northernmost peak of the Cascades in the state, from afar. Getting up close before ski seasons kicks off and after summer tourism dies down proved to be a beautiful time to visit and explore the surrounding national forest.
Autumn was a perfect time to visit. The skies were clear and though the morning and evenings were cool, the days were warm and pleasant. Perfect hiking weather. Mount Hood National Forest is gorgeous and idyllic, like a slice of Pacific Northwest perfection. There are towering trees, moss and ferns, waterfalls, mountains and meadows.
Crater Lake National Park is one of those places like the Grand Canyon I’ve seen hundreds of photos of, and just like the Grand Canyon, it was one of those iconic, majestic, awe-inspiring, huge natural places I told myself I would go see someday. This summer, after cancelling a trip to go in 2020, I made it.
The first view I glimpsed after a long morning of driving was just like the pictures I’d seen. But, well, better, bigger and bluer. Much like the immensity of the Grand Canyon, the deep blue hue of the water and the sheer size of it, the steep gradient of the inner slopes, just cannot be quite captured in photographs or words. Seeing something like this in person is truly incredible.
There is a moment, when watching a bird, when everything else falls away and there is nothing in the world but you and that bird. Worries are forgotten. Hunger, cold, heat, rain are not felt. You are in tune, in harmony, with a little feathered creature and their habitat and you let it fill you up.
Joe Harkness said it best in his book Bird Therapy:
“… I had also started to recognise just how positive I felt when I was immersed in the world of birds. My worries seemed to fade into insignificance and when I was feeling stressed, if I counteracted it with some time outside, watching them, it drifted off like birds do, in a stiff breeze.”
This is the real reason I love watching birds. It took me a few years to realize what I was doing was a form of mindfulness. A moment where your attention is focused on nothing but the present. To seek a connection, no matter how fleeting, with another creature. and pull me out of myself and into the world around me.
It’s a wonder that such a small thing can make such a difference, a little thing with feathers. Birds have brought me so much joy since I started to really become aware of them and they were there when times were low. They are beautiful and charismatic, funny and entertaining, fascinating and full of surprises. I am grateful and love every one; the brightly-hued migrants, the little brown birds, the fierce raptors and the tiniest songbirds. Here’s to you, every member of the Aves class, but especially the ones who’ve graced me with their presence over the years and more recently.
Let it be known that spring means swallows! They are one of my most look-forward to birds of the season along with warblers and Osprey.
Normally when I go birding, I don’t set expectations or look for specific birds. But because I love swallows so much, today, I went out in search of some spots I know they favor. Though there were not as many Barn Swallows in my tried-and-true spot (maybe a little early still), I did find them!
Life in Oregon can be pretty grey and dreary during the winter. I don’t mind rainy days until it starts to feel like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. The rain gives us our beautiful temperate rainforests: it feeds the thousand-year old trees that have lived for thousands of years and dusts the canopy with lichens and moss. Winter can often seem dull but little bright patches of colour can be found in almost every colour of the rainbow!