bearriver Blog: The watching is worth the work and the wait

The watching is worth the work and the wait

O.K.   That title has a lot of W's in it. But you'll understand why in if you continue reading just a bit more.  I'd like to tell you about an experience I had this weekend - birding both on the Refuge and off - that highlighted something I've been dying to chat about for some time.

First - I spent a lovely sunday morning driving the Refuge Auto Loop and the county road that connects to it.  The views of wintering raptors were amazing - always making me wish I was a better photographer. It almost felt like the Rough-legged hawks were modeling and the Bald eagles were posing...both species circling and perching.  I thought to myself, "Boy - I hope these guys are all around NEXT weekend for Bald Eagle day!"  And, to add to the special morning, I learned something new about bird behavior.  I seem to almost every time I go birding. Even the most common birds can always do something to startle or enthrall me.  This day - it was a lonely little Horned lark.  I've rarely ever seen them on their own - almost always in small to large flocks feeding together.  This lil fella was calling - maybe trying to find his lost friends.  But I loved his perch - or perches, to be correct.  He would call for a bit - then fly off to another spot and call some more.  His perches of choice?  Large mounds of frozen cow poop!  Sturdy, raised, good vantage point. Seems like a good choice to me.  But - on my many times out birding - and taking the time to watch horned larks, I had never seen this.  It takes time, patience, and sometimes work.

Second -  the following morning I decided to bird off the Refuge - to go in search of a more elusive bird that has not been as easy for me to observe.  In fact, this was my third trip - up a steep mountain road, then hiking in freezing and drifting conditions, to try and spot a flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-finches on the top of Powder Mountain.  The drive is precarious - even on good-weather days.  The hike from the ski lodge area up to the private Condo area where the finches have been hanging out - is slippery, blustery and just darn right cold. The first two times I've made this trek..my payoff was an empty bird feeder the first time and a partially filled feeder with only one mountain chickadee the second.  I was beginning to feel the lil Rosies were not in my cards.  But, yesterday...after the toughest and coldest hike of the three...there they were!  And about 50 of them, at that, enjoying the feed with a Hairy woodpecker thrown in for the fun of it.

And now, finally - this brings me to my point.  These birding observations of mine - are just that much more special to me because I didn't have the birds pointed out to me, or just get lucky and have them fly across my yard.  Don't get me wrong - luck has a lot to do with seeing tough to find birds sometimes. But - the immense joy I get out of seeing new or interesting birds or bird behavior - comes not just from focusing my binocs on them and checking them off my list. No, my friend, not so.  Some of the most memorable sightings I've had in my birding years are of those birds that have been work to find.  Those species I've had to research first.  To ask around about good habitat and put up with several "no show" hikes before finally getting the glimpse I've been looking for.  I have too often been disheartened with birders or visitors alike that will be angry or disappointed when they do not see birds they expect to see on a Refuge.  My usual response:  they're wild birds...would YOU stay put?  But even more disappointing is when the birds are there but folks do not want to put in the extra effort.  "I didn't see any swans out there at all!"  "Well - did you get out of the car?"  "No"   There's my point.  Go the extra step or two.  Take that slightly cold and slippery hike if you can.  If the birds are there - and trust me, they won't always be there, it will be all the more worth it to you when they are.  So - back to the W's.  Do the Work. It may take some Waiting...but it will be Worth it when you are Watching the bird you've been Waiting to see.

 - Jason

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