A fellow birder in the community recently shared a new spot to bird with me down a road near the airport that leads to the water. This past weekend, I ventured there a few times in search of migrating shorebirds. It is always thrilling to find a new, cherished area to add to the birding route, and this area does not disappoint. On my daily jaunts, I saw my second Steller’s Jay (STJA) of the season, a juvenile Northern Goshawk (GOS), a Peregrine Falcon (PEFA), and two Pectoral Sandpipers (PESA to add to my life list)!
Now, I am the kind of person who runs back into the house multiple times when attempting to get out the door, and it is definitely a new phenomenon for me to run back for bear spray. I wrote earlier about having to retrain my senses to notice the birds in my environs. There is something very primal about heading down a well-worn dirt road with ones senses heightened, expecting a brown bear to step out from the grass ahead. It is comforting to know that as human as I am, I am still an animal. My entire being felt more alive and alert as I walked down a dirt road near the airport in town. Each time I flushed a tiny sparrow, my whole body responded – heart pace quickening, arm hairs on end, verbal exclamation, the whole predator-prey, animal response. It was invigorating!
This is an entirely primal element of being present that cannot be taught. It is an instantaneous reaction to our surroundings that has been hidden beneath layers of material acquisition and hours spent honing and refining the art of life as a couch potato or at least a life spent mainly indoors or in seemingly controlled outdoor spaces.
As I followed a ditch that turned into a creek that eventually joined the salt-laden waters of Icy Passage, I followed the tracks of many animals that had ventured there before and would certainly return in my absence. One trail was so heavily used by wolves that it looked like it had been formed by a motorcycle tire tread. What caused these canids to follow the same path day after day, year after year, generation after generation? My own choices of paths to follow feels so random and clumsy in comparison, yet I know that humans in the past and even now in some parts of the world do choose the placement and direction of their footsteps with deliberation.