my life in birds

BirdsLifeCollageNight Herons frame, Murmuration of Swallows, Grebe in Flight, Plovers in Morning

One of the biggest surprises for me in this marine life was actually loving my new hours. My workday commute from Oakland to Palo Alto requires that I be on the road before sunrise. I always thought I was definitely not a morning person but I found out otherwise. I walk off the boat each morning at 5am into the velvet predawn of a new day. This ritual is suddenly, surprisingly, a spiritual experience for me. The high priestesses are birds. Last week a great egret, as tall as my shoulder, was posed at the end of our dock, her feathers rippling in white grace as she fled my approach. Most mornings I pass black-crowned night herons. All but one bursts into flight and kwaks at me, except the bold, clever heron that anticipates my approach and runs down the side dock and waits until I pass to return to the prime fishing spot. Each evening green herons (I think misnamed because they are actually a lovely cinnamon color) jostle for fishing spots. This morning a large Brandt’s cormorant looked up at me as I crossed the bridge to land, then dove powerfully, leaving massive concentric ripples expanding silently across the water. Last week I decided to make a U-turn in these early hours before work and I drove to the vista point beneath the western side of the Dumbarton Bridge – my magic portal of appreciation of the present moment. I framed this pano sunset then went looking for birds. A pair of American avocets walked slowly through the mudflats fishing for breakfast. A bustle of common terns (possibly elegant terns – I have to bring along binoculars) flitted among small islands raucously with their kip-kip-kip. I had to pull out my cellphone and download the Audubon app for California Birds to identify a pair of black-necked stilts. Song sparrows perched on the fence in front of my car to investigate me. I am grateful for my life in birds that helps me frame stopping to notice and appreciate beauty. Coming home last night I pulled off at the vista point as storm clouds were moving out of the area, expecting a dramatic sunset. Altocumulus clouds overlapped, dim and moody in variegated grays. Suddenly a flock of swallows swept overhead and banked around in elegant murmuration. I stood and watched until they flew out of sight and simply breathed in the gift. No colors of sunset in the dense clouds, but I would gladly trade birds for clouds some days as my gift of the day.

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