Thursday, November 10, 2011

For the Birds?

It has been important for me to block thoughts of my own mortality on this trip in response to the fact that in the past week I have spoken with three friends who are dealing with serious illnesses. The best antidote to prevent my own anxious thoughts has been to immerse myself in writing, photographing and in drawing.

I have had some spare moments to linger on fishing piers while my old friend has been at doctor appointments. Also yesterday, I took the opportunity for a short hike at one of my favorite places from years ago, the Bay Trail at Shoreline Nature Reserve.

Shoreline Park, which is East of downtown Mountain View and South of Palo Alto, is an enormous area of salt ponds, marshes and bayland located on the flyway for millions of birds who either reside year around or travel back and forth from Alaska to Mexico. It has extensive walking and biking paths, observation platforms and informative signage, making it an outdoor person's paradise.

I snapped quite a few pictures of colorful ducks and geese, lanky blue herons, ibises and noisy gulls, but my goal was to keep my body moving. Too much sitting in the car, eating the wrong food and drinking too many mochas has added a lump to my middle-age paunch which regretably I may have inherited from my father.

To excell in photographing birds requires patience, keen vision and perseverance, qualities which I severely lack. The darn things usually swim away from view or fly off or are hard as heck to spot when a call emanates from a tangle of high branches. Also invariably, the moment before the shutter snaps, the damn thing sticks its beak in its feathers or turns and shows you only its backside.

I have spoken with binocular-toting folks who collect species-sitings like I do stamps. They carry handbooks and checklists and seem to be almost disappointed when the lovely blue-breasted flysucker on the post is a bird they had already spotted three years ago in New Mexico.

In any case, to me it is simply a winged thing, which is willing to serve, if I am lucky, as a lovely component of a vibrant day out in the fresh air. I realize that as I grow older that my need to experience fully such moments have increased. Maybe I sense an internal desperation to make the most of my time before I fly off.


  1. 'Tis the generation, I think. It's nice to see a heron dressed in white, and I especially like the friendly goose. In addition, your writing and sharing are, again, a pleasure.

  2. All of these birds are beautiful, but I keep going back to that snowy white heron in the top picture. Birds don't fly because they have wings, BTW. They have wings because they fly.

  3. Let's be clear. Not all birds that have wings fly.. the ostrich, the emu, the cassowary to name a few. Also just because an animal has wings doesn't make it a bird.
    Bats have wings and fly and are mammals not birds.

  4. Well, I won't get into this argument, but your photos are great -- lovely birds whether they fly or not or have wings or not. Hope your day/evening has gone well.

  5. @Sylvia: That isn't even close to being an argument! Lee is just ragging on me as usual.

    @Lee: I wish I could claim credit for that, "Birds don't fly because they have wings; they have wings because they fly" but unfortunately it's not original with me. It's from a book called Meditations on the Tarot, which was published posthumously and anonymously, in accordance with its author's wishes.

    And one other thing: While the exceptions you mentioned are noted, all three of the creatures in your pictures ARE birds, all of them have wings and all of them fly! :-)