Back in the late ’80s, Lissa and I were camped along the lower Colorado River somewhere near Blythe. It was winter, but it’s always warm there. Out in the middle of the river, on an island, we watched an enormous bird, just sitting. The bird book and binoculars suggested a great blue heron. Our old copy of Peterson’s “Field Guide to Western Birds” has this note:
11/86 – Sat on tiny island in Colorado River all morning, picking at its feathers.
It is our tradition to make marginal notes in whatever bird book we happen to have with us. There are an additional 8 great blue heron sitings noted in our Peterson’s, and another 2 in our copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds. My favorite is the great blue that followed us on a boat trip down the San Juan River in Utah in 2002.
I suspect it is not the same bird, following us around over the decades, but there is a certain familiarity about him, a comfortable patience. This year, Lissa spotted him as we were driving down a sand spit on Lopez Island, in the San Juans north of Seattle. He was sitting in a hollow in the salt marsh on the inland side of the spit. Just sitting. We saw him again the next day, or perhaps one of his chums, as we were walking down a cold and deserted beach.
- a sea otter fishing
- gulls picking at the fried clams and bread on the Seattle pier (they really are lovely birds, despite their common trash-picking image)
- dogs more than happy to chase sticks in the chilly Puget Sound water as far as their humans could throw them
- boats of all sorts – ferries, sailboats, fishing boats, drug smugglers (not sure which were the latter, but surely some of the boats we saw plying the narrow San Juan waterways must have been)
- heavy snow falling into the ocean – big, warm, wet flakes glimpsed from the warmth of a ferry
(photo courtesy of Fermilab – we didn’t have a camera)