I drove to the NJ Meadowlands again yesterday for a bird walk that I read about on the Meadowlands Blog. What I really wanted was to respond to an inner voice calling me back to something familiar but…distant. It would be easy to ignore and allow it to grow more distant with all that the world is going faster these days and there is always so much to do. But my passion for nature is reclaiming me and I say come and get me. So I went on the gently guided bird walk with people who also wanted to spend a brilliant Sunday morning wandering dirt trails and bouncing boardwalks, and stopping to listen and look and be.
It was one of those precious September days edging on melancholy, when the sun was warm and the humidity low. A cool breeze rustled the phragmites, making them sound like ocean waves hissing onto the sand. Fists of spent Queen Anne’s lace brandished the sky as they curled into the advancing season. My mother calls these “Number Ten days.”
The water level was high in this tidally flowed area. You could barely see the top of a Great Egret’s stick legs. We found four Black Ducks with heads tucked into the down of their backs, floating peacefully before a curtain of reeds, sound asleep, soaking up a few moments of rest before getting back to the business of surviving another day.
These small birding groups are attended by people with a sense of curiosity about everything: birds, bugs, binoculars, cameras. We exchanged and accepted information without the hard and sometimes jaded edge of some of the more experienced birders. Admiration and appreciation are not limited to birds but include flowers, bees, butterflies, less popular insects (I have yet to see anyone kill a spider. Mosquitoes are another story).
A Hummingbird Clearwing Moth graced the butterfly weed, as Viceroy butterflies bobbed among the blooms. This one had a torn wing, a sign of prior attack but also of age. I hate that when they reach this stage of life, they are called “rags” and consider it yet another sign of the denigration of age in our society. The chunk nipped from its wing is actually a sign of evolutionary survival. For Viceroy butterflies, imitation is not only a sign of flattery; its coloration is similar to the Monarch butterfly, which is poisoness to birds, so it is usually left alone.
Here is a stand of Black-eyed Susans backing up a troupe of flowers called “Obedient Plant,” which earned its name by its ability to bend any which way without breaking, a skill I have yet to refine.
It is now Monday morning, and a holiday. I hear that voice again.