By Dave Coulter
I finally carved out some birding time over the past weekend. I'm not so very obsessive about this, but I do look forward to seeing the migrants pass through on their way north. Around here early May is a great time to see some avian wonders, and this also is when International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated. I guess I have been in the birding chapter of my life for a few years now. As long as I can recall I liked birds, but in a general way. That was until I bought on whim a guidebook on warblers from the old Barbara's. That purchase changed me. It opened up my eyes into worlds that I never suspected overflew the Chicago region.
Now, I'm hardly an expert at all this. I often forget my field guide, or even a piece of paper to scratch a list of what I see on a foray. I know that part of this disorganization is deliberate - I'm happy to be a generalist. I want to enjoy the walk, the company I'm with, the weather, the day. So Saturday I went out twice. In the morning I ventured out alone in the drizzle, traversing fields out near I-90. Later that afternoon E and I had a lovely hike at the Arboretum.
Those foggy morning fields were not conducive for birding. The heavy mist seemed to subdue springtime itself although I eventually did get good looks at a Palm Warbler and a Blue Grey Gnatcatcher. Some of these migrants are really small, really quick and rather shy. Or they're feeding in treetops or in scrub. It can be quite something to get that good look, believe me. I was grateful to see three grackles engage in a ponderous courtship display, or a lone Song Sparrow trilling from atop of a skinny little tree.
At the Arboretum E and I were treated to a couple of hours of balmy weather. The birds responded in kind. The fields and oak forests there were alive with song and flashes of color. In one meadow we were treated to good looks at Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, but the show was stolen by a brilliant orange male Baltimore Oriole. In the woods, anonymous little birds flitted in and out of view in tree tops. All one really had to do was stand still and the bird world would parade on by.
But truth be told, we missed more than we saw. One lovely yellowy-orangey-streaky thing flew in and out of our view twice. We never did get a fix on what it was. It flew off, gone forever! And never mind the dozens of specimens hidden way up high. We'll just never know. But that's alright - that's why they created tomorrows. So after a time we shifted our focus on to the life closer to Earth. The flowers and the trees are fixed to the ground, you know, and one can study them at leisure.
And life flies on over us all in the month of May.