Old Friends

My last blog, and final Virginia blog, was “A Tale of Seven Birds.” I could have called this one “A Tale of Four.” It’s a story about 4 birds and my assorted adventures photographing them. It’s also a quick read. You’ll see why in a moment.

I’ve referred to birds as markers, fellow travelers, nature’s emissaries, and divine messengers. But I’ve never referred to them as old friends. But old friends they are. That became clear to me when my wife and I moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Here’s a post-move journal entry that explains: “Moving to a new area is difficult. Everything is strange. But one thing that wasn’t strange when we moved from VA to PA was the birds. Seeing them and hearing them—catbirds, a few goldfinches, a flicker, and a robin—brought much comfort. It was like being surrounded by old friends—friends I’d known for some time.”

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Below is a close-up of the goldfinch. It had turned its head away from me ever so slightly. I could expand what I wrote in the “High ISO” section of “A Few Good Bird Photography Tips” to include deck railings. This bird was on a pretty beat-up one.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Another bird that I came across after arriving in PA was an Osprey. I spotted it along the edge of a lake in Lewisberry. It was a joy to see, and it, too, brought comfort. I used to live in Osprey country. Contrary to what some might think, Ospreys aren’t only found along coasts or in estuaries. They’re found inland, as well. This bird hatched and fledged in ’21. One telltale sign is the color of its iris: it’s orange. Another telltale sign is the appearance of its plumage: it’s mottled. The bird’s parents have likely migrated. It will follow soon. 

Juvenile Osprey
Juvenile Osprey

Speaking of juvenile birds, here’s a photo of a juvenile Chipping Sparrow (and another familiar bird). I captured it while sitting on a walkway and before spotting the Osprey. It was taking a breather on top of an overturned canoe. Younger birds always look a little rough around the edges. They also seem a little less confident.

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow
Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

I was getting ready to wrap this blog up. I didn’t have time to make it longer. Moving might be all-consuming, but so is unpacking and settling in. But I encountered a problem. The catbird whose photo I’d taken protested that its photo wasn’t included. So here it is. It’s a decent eye-level shot of a bird that can be hard to capture in the open.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

I like Ken Kaufman’s Audubon Field Guide description of these birds: “rather plain but with lots of personality.” This one was pretty feisty.

And This Just In

When I ventured out to take photos of birds after being in PA for only a few days, I didn’t expect to find much. But I’ve learned that despite bad weather, quiet surroundings, poor timing, or being in strange places, photo opportunities await. And I found several that day—including the opportunity to shoot the goldfinch. I later noted that either the bird was unusually tame, or I was exercising fieldcraft skills I didn’t know I had. The photos were the best I’d ever taken of the species.

Quip, Question, Quote

“Great fiction is often praised for evoking a strong ‘sense of place.’ Birds do the same. In my own backyard, watching the types and rhythms of birds each day and each season heightens my appreciation for the subtler workings of the landscape. And when confronted by a seemingly alien place, say a desert or mountain tundra, the birds carry me from confusion to understanding. Seeing the world through the eyes of birds gives me a sense of place like no other.” Chris Canfield

 

12 thoughts on “Old Friends

  1. Dave, your photos & comments have provided much pleasure & inspiration & now a new chapter beckons; am looking forward to seeing what special place or places you discover & what will succeed the green herons as your “signature bird”.

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    1. Clark, You’re too kind. Interesting that you mentioned the Green Heron. In the last few days I came across and photographed both a juvenile and an adult. They’ll probably be featured in my next blog. All the best.

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  2. I’m so glad that we in Chesapeake will continue to hear from you! Incidentally, I grew up in northwestern PA. Up there, goldfinches were always called “wild canaries.”

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  3. Hi Dave, you must live closer to me than I thought! I am in Fairview Twp, between Lewisberry, Lisburn and New Cumberland. I hope you will visit my favorite bird spots nearby. Perhaps you have already been to Gifford Pinchot SP. Often a great variety of birds there! Yesterday we went down to Rocky Ridge County Park and saw so many warblers dashing about, we couldn’t account for them all! Welcome to PA and happy birding!

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    1. Thanks, and thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, we do live close. I love Gifford Pinchot State Park and have birded there often. Will definitely check out Rocky Ridge. I appreciate the tip!

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  4. Lovely tale of a couple who find solace and respite in their new home with old winged friends. You didn’t mention though WHERE in PA you ended?

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