I sat with my coffee in the quiet predawn hours this morning, thinking on the events of the past few years and the many changes that have taken place in my life. At the first sign of morning light, the sweet call of a white-throated sparrow came from the blackberry bushes in the yard, just outside the window. It’s one of my all-time favorite bird songs (hermit and wood thrushes are first) and seemed to fit perfectly with my mood. The song of this beautiful sparrow is both melancholy and hopeful, sorrowful and triumphant.
The chips and songs increased with the light, and soon I could see several WTSPs on the ground under the feeders – along with the usual contingent of tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, goldfinches, and white-breasted nuthatches making the first visits. In the not-too-distant past, my early mornings were usually taken up with opening nets, preparing the station for the day’s banding, and watching out for black bears. Sitting here quietly relaxing and watching birds as the sun rises seems somehow irresponsible.
How things have changed. I now spend more time quietly observing, in a much more relaxed atmosphere, usually with a cup of coffee and a notebook within reach. I’ve just received a new digital camera as an early Christmas gift, and a tripod is enroute. I have two feeding stations set up, one in front of the house and one in the back yard, with room to spare for many more – and no worry about bears taking them down in the night. We’ve decided to add cracked corn for the squirrels and deer feed for the ones who seem to know our backyard is safe from hunters. Word travels quickly in the forest.
Do I miss banding? I’m not sure. Having done it for so many years, I think I do. I miss handling the birds, being up close, having those photo ops for cool birdy pics. But I also find myself really enjoying more and more just quiet observation, and the option of sleeping until sunrise if I want to. I’m reading and studying more about the Nature (and history) of where we live. I really want to be able to know the animals, plants and trees right here, right outside my door. I was appalled to discover how many of them I didn’t know, or had forgotten over the years. And how much I take for granted in that area.
I admit, after so many years of banding, it’s a curious thing to not be. But I think it won’t be difficult to get used to a different approach.
Oh, I can still band if I want to begin a station here, but when I begin to consider it, I find myself thinking that I’ve probably contributed enough to the migration monitoring studies and all the data that accompany a banding program. I find myself thinking I would rather focus on sharpening my awareness and observation skills, and not disrupt the trusting relationship with the wildlife that seems to be developing here. I owe it to the chickadees and goldfinches that practically land on me as I’m filling the feeders, to keep that peace and trust between us.
How odd that seems, and how perfectly right.