As the weather has warmed up, I’ve been taking more and more mini-hikes on my own. The dark, cold winter can be hard on my mental health, and a decent hour of morning sunshine works wonders.
Often I travel no further than North Shields Ponds, a mile from my house, where there’s a short, flat trail that winds first along a stretch of the Poudre River and then around the ponds it’s named for.
I bring my binoculars, though I rarely get moving early enough for prime bird spotting. Today, just as I had decided I wasn’t going to find anything interesting, a blue jay came squawking out of the brown landscape and across my path. When I got him in my scope he hung around to put on a show for me, rotating around on his perch until I could see the full, vibrant pattern of his feathers.
Blue jays are always a reminder of my grandfather Jay and the bird feeders he and my grandmother kept in their yard — but the bird that I really associate with my grandfather is the woodpecker. I told the jay — yes, I speak to the birds sometimes, there was no one else on the trail to care — that I was happy to see him, but that if Jay wanted to say hello, he should send a woodpecker instead. (Jay disliked that jays are aggressive toward other birds at the feeders.)
Sure enough, when I rounded the corner a few minutes later, the first thing I heard was the drumming of a woodpecker.
I hung around the area for a few minutes, anything but optimistic that I’d be able to locate the woodpecker — but he kept drumming and led me right to him.
We don’t get the same woodpeckers in Colorado as in Ohio. Here — or at North Shields Ponds, at least — I know to look for the Northern Flicker.
My flicker simply perched on that branch and kept drumming for me. (I know it’s called “drumming” because this incredible app I use, Merlin Bird ID, also includes songs, calls, and more. I use it constantly, even with birds I am familiar with.)
My late grandfather probably didn’t send me a bird (err, two birds) to wish me well, but he did instill in me the love of a slow walk in nature, the kind that gives the birds time to show up for you.
P.S. As soon as the weather turns and I start doing more riveting things than chasing birds around ponds, you’ll be the first to know.