This morning my schedule called for a bird census trip to a restored prairie at a local forest preserve. It was windy out today. I’m not a fan of birding in the open when a strong breeze is blowing because the birds tend to stay low and out of sight. Plus I can’t hear their calls as well.
But sometimes it’s best to carry on with a plan rather than hope you’ll find time to fit a scheduled activity into the calendar later on. So I drove out to the preserve and hiked out to the first GPS post and started the count.
During the first stop I looked up to find a meadowlark circling overhead. As it fanned its tail and circled I snapped photos of the bird. I could tell in the viewfinder that the images would turn out interesting.
I’m always looking to salvage some kind of value from every experience I do. Sometimes on a long ride or run in the wind it’s all I can do to get through it. The sound of the wind while you’re riding can be so exhausting and the feeling of the wind rushing across your ears and pressing on your body is tiring as well.
Yet we ride on or keeping running because once you’re out there, what other choice do you have? Somewhere along the way there always seems to be a little break when the wind lets up and things get quiet enough to think. I do recall a ride many years back when the wind was so strong I stopped the bike and yelled an obscenity into the wind.
In fact I did the same thing this morning during the bird census. “Fuck the wind!” I yelled out. Then I turned around to see that a man was walking his dog on the trail that cuts through the prairie. He stopped, clipped his dog back on its leash and turned around. Apparently he thought I was yelling at him.
But actually, all I was trying to do was let off some anxious energy on a morning when I wished it was quiet enough to hear the grasshopper sparrows singing their insect-like songs in the low vegetation.
Instead all I saw and heard were the obvious birds. The loudmouths and aggressive species like red-winged blackbirds that dive-bomb if you don’t stay alert and wave them off.
By the time I’d finished up the count this morning I was tired and ready to plop into the car and relax a few minutes. I’m no scientist by trade, but this much I can tell you. It takes patience and persistence to gather information about the rhythms of the wild.
That’s especially true when you’re performing your citizen science duties against the wind, or through the rain. It’s a test of commitment and belief in what you’re doing when you’re waist deep in grass and worried about ticks up your pant legs. But the two constants in my life have been endurance sports and getting out in nature. Sometimes the two mix and at other times, they are necessarily separate.
But the hope common to both activities is that I’ll experience something out there that just blows me away. I’s always in pursuit of that sensation, those peak experiences where you feel a sense of wonder. Sometimes they come by in a flash, which means that in everything you do it always pays to be as alert and alive as you can.