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May 2, 2009

How do people not notice the birds more?  The birds are Irvine’s saving grace.
The oh-so-territorial hummingbirds racing by clicking like Morse code, the seasonal flocks of song birds, the ubiquitous crows who harass the red-tailed hawks, the mocking birds lately returned from migration to harry the crows in turn.  Vultures soar over town, and first year there were kites during the summer, though those left for the winter and never returned.  The swallows were great last year, and though they haven’t been so numerous this year I’m sure they’re around somewhere.  There’s a great blue heron who likes to sun on the roof of the building opposite mine, and hunts down by the bike path.  And everywhere, around these, are black pheobes, one of whom nested in the stairwell of my building.
Someone laughed at me on our Joshua Tree camping trip, that I brought bird books and bincoluars.  "You do realize this is a desert", I was told.  Well yes.  So I’ll only be able to see four new species in an hour… and if we’d stayed longer I could have easily picked up another dozen.  There are few places on Earth not settled by birds, and most of those have no life at all.  Birds are everywhere, and being aware of them helps you stay aware of the greater natural world.  Everywhere I go, for my entire life, I’m on a scavenger hunt to see who I can see, and it reminds me of just how much there is to be done.  I need to get to Hawaii soon, because almost every native bird species there is endangered, and few will be around in a few decades.  There’s a good reminder of why conservation is such an important thing: a whole set of islands, loosing one of it’s major animal groups.
Yeah, I drag my bird books everywhere, up mountains and through deserts.  But what I get out of it is totally worth it.  And leaves me constantly amazed at how little people notice the birds around them.

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