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Around the holidays there’s always the desire to give as well as receive and so it always causes me to reflect and ask myself, “Have I given enough?” Like most birders we take care of our environment around us. We are careful to pick up trash we see that others have left behind and we are careful not to disrupt an area–for both the birds and other wildlife.
One time Steve and I did get the opportunity to give back. We were visiting the Oregon Coast and as we were walking along Cannon Beach one morning, Steve spotted a Pacific Loon that looked as though he was struggling. He was floundering around in the sand, but not able to fly, perhaps injured by the pounding surf.
Coincidentally, we came upon a woman walking long the beach who also was curious about the injured loon. She was an elected town councilor for Cannon Beach and she called the Seaside Aquarium on her cell phone and explained the situation. They said to bring the loon to them if it was possible, so Steve and I volunteered to take the loon to the aquarium, which was about a 45 minute drive north.
I drove and Steve held Larry (that’s the name we gave him) in his lap. Poor Larry was frightened and even pooped all over Steve’s jeans. Steve remarked that the loon seemed embarrassed–or at least uncomfortable–by incident.
The aquarium was waiting for us when we arrived and Steve gently passed Larry on to one of the workers. It was weird driving away and leaving Larry. We’ll never know what happened to him, and it was a complete diversion from our day’s plans, but ultimately I know that we did what we felt we could do to help a struggling little creature. Some people give by donating to their local PBS station. Some might help in a soup kitchen. Others save their pocket change all year in a jar and hand it over to a homeless man who lives under a bridge at Christmas. Us? We once rescued Larry the Pacific Loon.
While we were staying at the resort, Crystal Paradise in Belize last year, Steve and I were in the outdoor dining area chatting with some of the other birders staying at the resort when all of a sudden we heard screeching nearby. The kind of screeching that would make your ears bleed. When birders hear sounds like that everyone grabs their binoculars and/or cameras and walks–no, RUNS–toward the mayhem.
The screeching came from a pair of White-fronted Parrots that were fighting a female Pale-billed Woodpecker over a nest. Clearly, the woodpecker excavated this nest hole, but the parrots wanted it. I suppose the rule of possession is nine-tenths of the law also applies in Belize. And even for birds.
So, in the end the parrots won. Poor woodpecker. I sure hope she found another home. (Here’s a photo so you can get a close up by clicking on it.)
I hate walking. And that was before I had my accident last year.
To be a really good birder, in my opinion, you need to be willing to stand for long periods of time and often walk for long distances. So because I’m not good at either of those tasks, I suppose I’m not a really good birder. But I love and want to be with my husband and I do love being out in nature, not to mention, I crave learning new things. The challenge is (for me at least), to not get tired or bored in the process. Admittedly, there have been a few times I pooped out by noon and Steve wanted to continue, so I said, “Hey, I’ll just go back to the car and play Scrabble on my iPhone,” and Steve soldiered on.
Let me be clear: I don’t find birding boring. I love it and I see and learn something new every time I’m out in the field. But I have a relatively short attention span, so that’s why I invested in a good DSLR and a good lens to give me more purpose and motivation as we’re searching for a bird. But last year when we went to Belize I found something even better than photography to help make birding more interesting for me–THE CANOE!
“You mean we get to just sit and look at all the birds?” I asked our guide, Eric Tut.
“Why, of course,” he said. “And you get to be the queen!”
And the queen I was.
I was so on board with that idea. Especially since my husband sat in the front and Eric in the back while they both paddled us down the Macal River while the queen (me) sat in the middle and shot these photos, which were the highlights from the canoe trip.
For this trip, it was like being on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland but instead of salty pirates and other animated characters, we had all these fantastic birds make an appearance at the right time and all I had to do was sit in the canoe, point the camera and shoot.
We had a great day on the river. The following day, some guests at Crystal Paradise–the birding resort where we were staying–ended up being rained on and their canoe took a tumble, getting them all wet.
But for this queen, it was a royal ride. It’s not surprising that I’m wanting one of our next investments to be a canoe.