[birding] In the spirit of celebration...

Paul Sullivan paultsullivan at onlinenw.com
Fri Jul 17 04:11:56 PDT 2015

Recently there were posts on OBOL about county listing and some back and
forth about crazy ways of counting.  I encouraged folks to celebrate their
own approach to birds/birding without dismissive comments on other people's
approach to the same.  In that spirit, I offer this:


Let me tell you a bit about what it means to count 100 (1994), then 125
(1996), then 150 (1997), then 175 (2005), then 200 species (2014) in every
Oregon County.  The numbers are only mileposts along a memory lane.


It means the smell of wet sage on a misty morning, or the reek of a sewage
pond.  It means Snow Buntings in a blizzard.  It means car trouble on the
dike at Summer Lake and a ride to Bend in a tow truck.  It means a beautiful
sunrise over colorful carved canyons or a sunset at Boiler Bay.  It means
solitude on a country lane, far from contentious people, with only a horse
watching you.  It means searching for a Catbird along the Umatilla River.
It means sleeping in the van while a winter storm pounds Port Orford.  It
means walking among tall Ponderosa pines.  It means poking into places not
visited before.  It means the golden aspens of Steens Mountain in the fall.


It means the kind mentorship of Frank Conley and Ben Fawver for a fledgling
birder.  It's high fives with Dave Copeland, Dean Hale, and Joe Evanich;
it's big grins with Martha Sawyer, Craig  Roberts, and Marion Corder.  It's
an animated conversation with Ann Ward and her infectious smile.  It's a
whoop with Tom Winters, Barb Bellin, or Tim Rodenkirk.  It's the excitement
of Trent Bray on the other end of the phone.  It's a quiet ramble with Kevin
Spencer or Dennis Vroman.  It's an albatross over the waves with Matt
Hunter, Tim Shelmerdine, or Greg Gillson.  It's a bowl of chowder with the
Mickels.  It's swapping sightings with Barb Griffin and Donna Lusthoff.
It's hugs from Judy Meredith and Mave Lofton, and a lot of patience, hugs,
and quiet smiles from Carol Karlen.


It's finding a chat for the Birding Weekend group, sharing a knot at the
Shorebird Festival, attending a good talk in the OIMB boathouse.  It's
having a beer with the gang at Terminal Gravity in Enterprise and laughing a
lot.  It's the Morning Birdsong walk at Tualatin Hills Nature Park watching
the Rufous Hummingbird on his regular perch.


It's the heat of August in Jordan Valley, the cool of June in Rhinehart
Canyon, the rustle of fall cottonwood leaves at Frenchglen, the sideways
rain of December at the Newport jetty.  It's the mosquitos of Summer Lake.  


It's the raptor routes through wheat fields and canyons in Gilliam County.
It's Carol's raptor routes in Yamhill County with friends, with lunch at
Zippy's and red tails on their expected perches. It's Christmas Bird Counts,
NAMC counts, Breeding Bird Surveys, and atlas searches far from the
Willamette Valley.


It's finding the rare bird in the lilacs at Malheur headquarters.  It's
sitting in a someone's cozy kitchen until the rare bird appears at a
backyard feeder.  It's prowling a neighborhood or combing a mudflat, not
finding the rare bird, and going for a beer anyway.


It's carrying a notebook and keeping track.  It's recording what you're seen
and looking for what you haven't seen.  It's seeking out the bit of forest
in Malheur County and searching for marsh in Hood River County.  It's
asking, "Where would you find a White-breasted Nuthatch in Lincoln County?"


It's more than completing a goal, more than coming to know Oregon, it's ..
loving?,  living?, immersion in? Oregon...  There's no words for it..


It's a lot more than numbers.


Paul Sullivan


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