Thursday, September 18, 2008

and for a fleeting moment, there passed between them a faint sense of some common destiny

Yesterday I walked through the park on my way to work, but didn't have my binocs or time to scan my surroundings for birds. I hesitated between the Nethermead and the steep hill to the Long Meadow because I yearned for a few extra minutes to sneak into the horse path to look for warblers. Just as I resolved to ignore the wonderful possibilities and just go to my job, a buzzing speck of green shot past me, hovered over a bush, and zipped into the woods. My flesh thrilled with goosebumps of recognition and elation: the hummingbird I had asked the universe for on my birthday had appeared! Though it was a brief and distant encounter, I thanked life, the universe, and everything for conspiring to deliver my belated birthday present.

Fast forward about twenty-four hours.

This afternoon I traipsed into Prospect Park to sniff out some migrants. The air was sun-filled and warm with a cool breeze - one of my favorite kinds of weather. I hit a few of my usual spots and found a few of my usual birds: blue jay, cardinal, robin. I could see very little from my perch on the Path Between the Pools, but the moment I asked for an ovenbird, one appeared right in front of me. I think having a sense of what to ask for, you know, things that are possible, not outlandish or selfish, really helps. I decided to haunt the area where yesterday I briefly met the green speck. Was I ever in luck! I spotted a little buzzer among the jewelweed flowers, quickly got on the bird, and enjoyed thoroughly my first live close-up of a ruby-throated hummingbird - female. About ten seconds into the great view, I heard the scream of red-tailed hawks above and nearby. Stupidly I wheeled around, just in time to spot three of them heading out over the Nethermead in search of an afternoon snack. Blessedly, the hummingbird lingered long enough for me to observe her again, this time for a minute or more, as she paused deliberately at the tiny orange flowers to glean their sweet nectar. Soon she zoomed up and up and over the trees, out of sight. The combination of my first great hummingbird sighting and the three red-tails in the late summer sun qualifies as the best birding minute of my life so far -- must leave room for more wonders!

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