Every season is different. As in all life, whether it’s a new birding season or this year’s holiday season, no two are ever exactly the same. The birds as well as the people that are intertwined in our lives make for a new place and time. For me this fall was a very different one.
Instead of wandering the fields and meadows as I have done without fail since childhood I was sentenced to view the outdoors from the seat of my recliner and scoot through the yard when I was able with my trusty silver walker .As life goes my lifetime limited warranty had somewhat run out.
I needed a new hip in hopes of continuing my life’s passion of enjoying nature and spending time with all the wonderful people whose company I have had the honor of enjoying for more years than I would like to count. Needless to say it was pretty difficult watching the leaves change from my window and knowing that the warblers had been moving through without my binoculars pointed their way.
I did hear the yellowlegs flying over on occasion when I managed to make it out to my deck. That always does my heart good but now I knew the raptors were hunting over the Meadowlands all without the cold wind in my face and my aging eyes being able to watch over them. We don’t realize how much nature does for our hearts and souls and makes us who we are until we have to be without it for a while.
And yet despite my limitations it turned out to be a very special season.
I was much luckier than many folks. Besides my wonderful wife and family looking out for me at home I was blessed to have my incredible birding family watching out for me in the field. Just about daily my emails or text messages would begin with things like, ‘Don, White-Throats and Juncos are here! Or “Hey Don, hope you are well. Shovelers and Green-Winged teal showed up in good numbers.” And of course the one that gives me goosebumps: “Don, thought this might help – Eagles bringing sticks to the nest today already. ”
All the reports and sightings, whether it was a Cardinal at a backyard bird feeder or a Peregrine Falcon hunting over the river helped me through a difficult time but also reminded me that this birding season was just as special and unique as any other and in many ways maybe even a little more.
And of course there were the great group photos of folks on our field trips waving hello, the beautiful bird get well cards that were like energy boosters as I waited for the sound of my mailbox each and every day, and the nice phone calls from the good folks that were “just checking in” to see when I would be back on my feet and eager to walk with me once again.
There were the days when even though I thought I wanted to rest my duties got in the way, like a news interview from my hospital bed and trying my best to handle environmental issues that could not wait from computer and phone. I pretended to be bothered by it all but in fact I knew that it helped to fuel my desire that kept me going. After all it was about friends that needed some help .
I always knew well that the friends we make out in the field are some of the best people we will ever have in our lives. Sometimes we don’t know what they do or where they come from, or at times we may even forget their names. But when we meet them on the trails we know who they are. We see the smile on their faces when a good bird surprises us, the sharing of a hot cup of coffee on a winter mornings and a quiet, “how are you.” We know in our hearts that they are family . Maybe not the ones we have at the Thanksgiving table but like family nonetheless, just like the ones that were there with me when I needed them the most.
There will come a day for all of us when our time in the field will be limited, our legs not able to carry us so far, our eyes not able to see as well. But not to worry, we all have more friends than we realize and they will keep us all up to date on the arrival of the birds, the changing of the season and remind you that you are out there with them if not in body but always in spirit.
Thank you to everyone in my wonderful birding family. I hope you are all as blessed and as lucky as I have been this holiday season .See you in the field and thank you again.