Cheesy as it may sound, it is hard for me not to be uplifted by a trip to our forests – if I am paying attention. Yesterday was no exception.
Still groggy from vacating the sack at 3:15 AM, we were more or less awake as the deep blue of a clear dawn came on and we started the second of our three annual bird counts at 5 AM. On this unseasonably warm morning, the birds were already in full voice as my headlamp illuminated to data sheet and I hurried to mark down the birds identified by Lori Hennings, the lead birder.
Two hours later, our two teams of four had covered a pair of transects of roughly two miles each, and done a total of 24 point counts of three minutes each. The data sheet from one of the counts looked like this:
Six hours later, this article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/30/opinion/saving-canadas-boreal-forest.html?_r=0) reminded me of the remarkable annual migrations of the bird most often heard on the morning count – the Swainson’s Thrush.
Four fifths of the way down the sheet above you can see 36 marks in the row for SWTH. Combined with the 15 heard on the other route, this means that we recorded 51 Swainson’s Thrushs in just two hours in only a small percentage of the forest’s 750 acres. “So, what’s the big deal about hearing 51 small, non descript, brown birds?” you might reasonably ask. For me the big deal is knowing that these birds may have migrated this spring from as far south as Argentina and may be headed as far north at the northern beaches of Alaska – and yesterday morning our forest way alive with them. If I am inspired and amazed by the feats of just this one bird, how might I be uplifted by the stories of the other 25 species that we heard? We’re so fortunate to have them, and they seem to appreciate finding our little patch of rewilding forest to stop over in. I wanted to ask them “where have you come from and where are you headed?”.