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Birds on the Brain

Early spring always brings an irrational need to brave the wind, crusty snow, and cold to leave my warm house and go out in search of birds. Migrating birds. Birds that tell me winter is actually going away. I head north a few miles out to some ponds on the south end of the big lake nearby. The ponds are numbered but I have given many of them my own names. Pond 2 is the first to open up and I've seen snow geese, swans and eagles. It depends on what I see first as to what I will call it. Last year it was a toss up between tundra swans and snow geese. This year it is Eagle Pond. I have counted as many as 43 bald eagles on it this year. YAY!

Trying to sneak up on eagles to get a good picture makes me realize why the term 'eagle eye' is valid. The picture for this blog is about as close as I got and in the sneaking, most of them flew away. Friend Betsy and I gave it our best shot. Mostly butt shots but still... I could have gone out and bought a super duper camera and lens but where's the fun in that? I am satisfied in having gotten close enough to make out the adults and the juveniles and a couple blurry pictures with my cellphone.

What I found most fun this year was seeing and watching two couples. Eagle couples. They stand side by side and look very regal. However, as I watch them watch the youngsters out on the ice, I imagine them having conversations about how lazy the kids are or which ones are their favorite children. Since it takes 4-5 years for a baby bald eagle to get to full maturity (white head and tail), I imagine the lovely couples out on the ice are looking at their children from the previous years as they grow into adults. Do they give them names? Are there black sheep eagles in the family lineage? Do they stay friends? Do all the kids get along with each other?

In no time I realize I am giving birds or animals human characteristics and that is something we all do when it comes to animals, whether it's domestic ones or the wild ones. We can't help ourselves. We have no idea how they think, love or behave as it relates to each other within the species but we always try to put their behavior into our terms. For them, it probably doesn't matter but we just have to know. I don't need to know, not really. I keep it simple and pretend they are like us with conversations and behavior, making it all up as I go along. I am easily entertained.

I do a pretty good imitation of a raven call so when I see them, I start yakking it up, hoping someone will talk to me. Sometimes they do but most of the time they go on their merry way. Is it something I've said? I thought I could talk to wild turkeys but whenever they get close enough for a chat, they run away really fast when they hear me. I try not to take it personally.

Here it is, the last day of March and so far I've seen or heard most of my favorite birds. I'm never tired of marveling at the incredible blue of the male mountain bluebird. There is nothing quite so beautiful and they make my eyes very happy. The sound of the sandhill cranes, haunting but speaking directly to my soul. I will stop anything I'm doing just to listen, then try to spot them as they blend into any landscape as they fly. Doesn't really matter if I see them because their sound is magical.

I still haven't heard my most favorite migratory bird, the western meadowlark. The males perch on posts or fences and sing their little hearts out, head tipped up as if they can get more sound out that way. I like to just sit and listen. So I wait. They'll get here and then I will truly believe in spring.

Then the pelicans and ospreys will suddenly appear and spring is complete. I can hardly wait!!!

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