Thursday, September 8, 2016

Close to home

Home is for now a modest house in a modest neighborhood populated by working class families and students. The lots are small. The trees, big. It is no Cape May, no Whitefish Point, but it is home.

The alarm tinkles. I do not want to get up but do anyway. Stagger to the bathroom, pee. Then stumble to the coffeemaker. While the coffee percolates, I set my binoculars on the back deck so they won’t be fog-crippled for the morning bird walk. Alabama’s reputation for humidity is merited.

Day by day I force myself to bird the quarter-mile loop, coffee mug in one hand, binoculars in the other. It’s just a twenty-minute ramble, a daily contraction of my birding muscle, just the briefest set of avian calisthenics wedged into an overspilling schedule. I fear atrophy. I want to know what birds are near me.

The number of birds on this humble street ever surprises me. Of course, 95% of them are doves, robins, and jays, but every day I get a mouthful of migrants. Parula Tuesday, an oriole Thursday, two high-flying Eastern Kingbirds today.

Anything can fly over. One morning it was a Caspian Tern. Want to maximize your yard list? Watch the sky. No, seriously. Never abandon your post. Eventually, something like a Juan Fernandez Petrel will traverse your slice of sky. Will you be there to see it?