Solitary Loonacy: First Solo Flight

So fellow travelers, a year ago I posted a photo and poem about a  heartfelt moment during an annual birding expedition with Favorite Youngest Daughter. This weekend I returned to that spot and captured this image.

It was my first stop on this year’s Birdathon challenge, an annual event I joined for the first time in 2005. ( it’s background is in a previous post too) . As excellent a spot as Potter Road Marsh can be for birding, I had a more personal reason for starting my day’s adventure there. Like the mist on the water that morning a year ago, emotions embedded in the moment I had captured drifted through my consciousness as I prepared for this year’s expedition.

For the first time in ten years I would be flying solo. I had no illusions of breaking our tally record of one hundred and one species without my Team Loonatics partner, Favorite Youngest Daughter, whose expert ear for both pitch and cadence and accurate note taking skills were a major contribution to our final tallies. Still I had strong hopes of being able to find most of the species I could confidently identify independently and I wanted to fuel my “can do” attittude by starting the 24 hour challenge at the spot where inspiration had left a powerful memory.

Windows wide open inspite of the chilly morning temperatures, I drove towards the marsh, counting every song I heard along the way.  By the time I reached the trailhead just fifteen minutes from my house I had tallied nine common birds which I carefully marked on the checklist. Bear in mind first light was just emerging through cracks in the night sky, so I was finding birds only by calls

Stepping out of my car, I heard the sweet melodic song of a wood thrush, so loud and clear, I knew it had to be close to the trail head.  Binoculars in one hand, I moved along the trail as soundlessly as possible. Just a few steps past the trailhead I found the bird sitting in plain sight on a tree branch a few feet above me, so close I never had to raise my binoculars, I had such a clear view. Clear that is until sudden tears blurred my vision, ambushed by a memory from one of our first birdathon trips when a wood thrush had hopped out of the brush and onto a trail right in front of us. My daughter and I instantly froze in place and watched as the bird tilted its head as if looking quizically at these odd big shapes in the path. It hopped a few more steps then flew up into a tree and sang it’s signature flute like melody loud and clear before retreating deeper in the woods.

Left speechless, it had taken me a few breaths to answer my then ten year old daughter’s question of what bird that had been. Inspite of finding wood thrushes many times before, an actual sighting had always eluded me.  I remember, as a new birder taking a guided walk at a local nature center where everyone in the group I was with was able to spot a wood thrush in the trees. Everyone, but me that is, as the elusive songster kept zipping from branch to branch hidden behind leaves as I frantically focused and refocused my binoculars to get a clear view.  This “heard clearly, almost but not quite saw it,” moment was repeated for several years over many auditory encounters until that first full view on our second Birdathon adventure. The wonderful memory of that shared moment rose as clear as the notes filling the morning air and I whispered just as I had ten years ago “wood thrush, it’s really and truly a wood thrush.”

WoodThrush

Wood Thrush song spectrogram from Birds of North Ameirca Online; music from Oiseaux Exotiques © 1959 Universal Edition (London) Ltd., London/UE 13008. Photo by Janet Heintz via Birdshare.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

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  1. Solitary Loonacy: One Bird at a Time | Trail Mix

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