As I walk through the freshly fallen leaves covering the forest floor, blanketed by a sea of drab browns and subdued greys, with an occasional spot of fleeting green, I hear a noise. A woodpecker sends a signal to others of its kind, signifying the continuation of life – despite the loss of the vivid fall foliage. I continue through the crunch of fallen leaves and decaying branches, listening intently to the sounds of whistling, pecking, and singing that persists throughout the year. We are now in the beginnings of Winter, the harshest months of outdoor survival, and I have come to see how my Avian friends are preparing to survive yet another changing of the seasons.
I approach a vantage point – just a few weeks ago I was greeted by vibrant Reds and vivid Yellows, but now I see only a sea of brown, the trees having completed their spectacular yearly showing. While the beauty of the leaves is gone, this has only opened the door for something else. The migratory species have fled, seeking warmer climates to survive the winter, leaving the local denizens to a wider kingdom. In the corner of my eyes, I spot it – a red flash, gone as quickly as it appeared. As I hurry to set up my spotter’s scope, I am greeted by quick flashes of color, disappearing as quickly as they manifest themselves in my peripheral vision.
I peer through the lens, hoping to find where those flashes had landed. With the loss of leaves, the colors of distinct birds shines through the drab winter colors like a lighthouse. A Northern Cardinal, with a bright red coat and orange beak, nestles among the treetops, singing for its partner to return. In the distance I see a Blue Jay, my eyes being drawn to the distinct colors protruding from the branches below. Some of these colors may be leaves that have yet to fall, but others will be a brightly colored Avian.
As the migratory species have now left, the time to spot these birds in their true glory is best during the Winter, and I revel in the songs and sounds that these birds create. The quiet calm of the winter winds carries these songs further. With no leaves to rustle among the branches, the song of these birds reaches far and wide, allowing them to gather and better their chances of survival.
While other species such as the Mockingbird may have a more natural colored coat for their survival, species with colorful coats are always a special sight to see. The dances these birds will do, proudly displaying the vibrancy and combination of colors among themselves, are vital to their mating cycles, and are a truly spectacular sight.
I spend an hour or so, my eyes glued to the optical lens, watching as these different birds fly through the tree tops, some feeding, others simply resting. When I grow bored with watching one bird, I simply move to the next, looking for the next vibrant color to focus my scope on. I see birds dancing, or perhaps fighting over hunting grounds, as well as some rushing to finish their nests that are not yet completed.
When I notice the sun beginning to set the consistent pecking and vibrant singing lessens – signaling me to pack up my gear and begin my trek down. As I descend I can see colors darting from branch to branch above. The sound of distant bird songs fades as I make my way down, looking forward to my next excursion. As I drive home, the sun begins to set in full, the songs of the birds replaced by the ones on the radio.
It’s moments like this that constantly call me back, spending time not just in nature, but wholly within it. It’s during activities like this that I find myself completely uncaring of the other stressors in my life, a time and place where I can simply just relax and watch the Earth move slowly. Animals have existed long before humans and will likely exist long after. Their habits, behaviors and interactions are not profound discoveries in this day and age, but they harken us back to a time where we were able to draw wonder from even the most minute of observations. Experiences like this are just one of the many reasons why I love the outdoors, and if you’re looking for a reason yourself, perhaps this is just the activity for you.