As a young mother in the eighties, I was often confronted with a popular idea from the time period, that women could have it all. A career, a perfect home, a family and all it took was managing “quality” time in each fraction of your life. Yet, special moments can be elusive, rarely programmed and even the most careful of planning can’t insure quality time. No, it just happens, whether with family or an experience at work or even birding, quality time drops in like a special delivery. And so it was last Thursday; unplanned, unexpected, a quality moment with a delightful companion.
I was walking south to north on the boardwalk, quietly checking off the usual players…marsh wren, red-winged blackbird, tree swallow, Rufus hummingbird, when a bright and friendly lady caught up with me on the trail. I asked if she had noticed the hummingbird and quickly learned that she too was a birder and quite familiar with the solitary hummer that had been staked out in the willow for the last few weeks. For the rest of the way we walked and shared stories of our birding experiences. But her stories had a common thread, a connection with the bird community that I knew I didn’t have. She told of a hawk that grabbed at her hat and an owl that always seemed to seek her out when she hiked the woods through Mill Creek. Birds became relaxed and comforted around her and I quickly began to think of her as the “bird whisperer”, because she shyly confided that she felt many of her unique experiences with birds were a result of her talking to them. She showed me her picture from just a few days earlier of the bald eagle obliterating this year’s hope for a new crop of herons. We bemoaned the loss and moved on to discuss the changes we’d seen in goose and duck populations. The end of the trail came much too quickly and at least on my part, I hoped our paths would cross again.
Visiting the North Creek Park wetlands, I always hope to discover something new, something delightful. Until last Thursday, I expected this to come from the natural environment, a novel bird, something new in bloom, a glimpse of a small critter, but I was reminded that, even with the negative impact of our presence, humans too can be remarkable.
Over the next few weeks and months, as I visit North Creek Park and share my birding experiences, I hope to have many quality moments; many with the birds who happen on the landscape, but perhaps now I will be more attuned to fellow birders as well. If you see me on the boardwalk, stop and share a special sighting or birding story; I will consider it quality time, well spent.