We were on the boardwalk, looking over the savannah. We’d just spotted two birds in the tall Florida grasses, just beyond a tree trunk and a clump of bushes. We all paused, trying to identify these two brown, long-tailed birds.
I could not make them out. What were they? Curious, I followed them when they flew away, startled by our movement. The others continued down the boardwalk, but I went in the opposite direction, hoping to get a closer look.
I did! There they were, one clinging to the grass, the other perched in a bush. I tried to find it in my binoculars, confused at first by the clumps of leaves on the bush, until it’s round breast came clearly into view, proudly flashing in the sun.
White throat. Slightly flat brown head. White beak…not real long. It occurs to me, this might be a migratory bird, since I didn’t know it right away. Maybe it was a shrike? But no; too brown. Maybe an oriole? No, wrong color scheme.
I puzzled for awhile, and finally, worried the others might get too far ahead, I moved on. The boardwalk stretched out ahead of me, empty, bare, warmed by the sun. I quickened my step, wondering how far they had gotten, then calmed myself, hearing their voices.
I slowed down again (at least in my own mind), wanting to hold on to that moment: The open savannah, the warm sun, the light getting a bit stronger as it rose higher in the sky. I was aware of that in-between state of the present, with the pair of birds behind me and the small flock in front of me, clutching cameras, binoculars, jackets. They were in the future, this moment was the present, the unknown birds already in the past.
Such are the combined pleasures—and insights—of hiking on a trail, looking for birds, and slowing my stride to capture a moment of time.
In the bird-watching garden.
P.S. Bird list from the day: White-eyed vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, two great blue herons , red-wing blackbirds, mud hens, tri-colored heron, kingfisher, flock of ibis, pine warbler, voice of the pileated woodpecker!