NatureLog - My Nature & Nature Travel Blog
Animals Through My Traveling Lens
Whether you are a nature lover or not, you can probably relate. Do you ever get caught up in your mind’s obsessions about work, an argument you had with your significant other, a family issue, etc.? The impact these ruminations have on our psyche is not good. That’s where mindfulness comes in. As you open yourself up to be in the present moment, esp outside in nature – notice the fragrance in the air, the bird in the tree, the sensation of your foot steps on a pebble or the dirt. Doing so, you begin to separate from the drama, the “stuck” feeling, frustration or other negative emotion of your thoughts. You broaden your perspective and open up to the newfound energy from your immediate experience here and now - the awareness of just “what is” all around you. Just like you’ve been missing out on what’s in nature, you’re probably missing out on what’s happening to the loved ones in your life. Your nephew or niece, son or daughter, or grandchild has a new toy they want to share with you. Your loved one wants to seek your advice on a work issue. Your friend needs your shoulder ….. The more we open to the present moment, the more we experience what’s truly important. When you come back to your earlier rumination, it feels a lot less “dense” or heavy, less significant, or of less importance overall. In fact, you may have discovered an entirely new approach to the problem you hadn’t had the “room” to discover before.
Yesterday, I was out walking my dogs between rainstorms. I committed to being present for them– knowing they would enjoy this time after being cooped up in the house during the storms. Rather than rushing their joy because I had another agenda, I just let them be dogs – taking in every scent they could along the way. As we walked, enjoying the present moment, I began to get a “feeling” that something was about to happen in nature. As I walked, I could hear Cedar Waxwings nearby. We circled the block and on the sidewalk before me, in front of house after house, was berry “debris”. Still listening for the Waxwings, I wondered “Do Robins and Waxwings eat the same berries? Do they ever forage together?” And nature responded. One or two houses down, amidst the quiet of this day, I could hear the fluttering that could only be birds – LOTS of them - softly flying among leaves around the tree. I looked up to see an entire flock of Robins flying in and out, grabbing berries, arguing between themselves. I stood for the longest while, enjoying this moment with nature – Robins doing what they need to do to survive, eating as many berries as possible until they were satiated and grew quiet and still. And there among them? Cedar Waxwings of course! I was elated! I decided to take advantage of their current “food coma” pause after the big meal to run the dogs home, grab the camera and get back to the scene. And when I returned, there they still sat – looking plump and content. What beautiful birds….
Had I been ruminating, had I not been in the present moment with the dogs, I likely wouldn’t have noticed these beautiful birds. Lifted by their beauty and these precious moments with them, I felt ‘lighter’, grateful for nature’s beauty and the opportunity to experience it. The rain may be coming back but the dogs and I had had our moments in the fresh air – and returned home refreshed.
What might you be missing in your life? Take a moment to be in the present moment - wherever you are. Breath in the fresh air. Listen for birdsong. Walk the dogs. Do whatever it is that lifts your heart. Whether you are already a nature lover or are starting to see the many benefits nature can bring to you, you can learn more about mindfulness and the benefits of the present moment from Oprah and Jon Kabat-Zinn here.
And if you should see a Cedar Waxwing or Robin in distress this time of year, please call your local wildlife rehabilitator or facility. Often these birds ingest fermented berries and as you can appreciate, “drinking and flying” don’t mix well. Working in wildlife rehab, I have encountered “drunk” Cedar Waxwings who just needed some time to ‘sober up’ and safely fly again. As always, thank you for caring for your local wildlife …. and enjoy the beauty of the winter season and all of its surprises!
I’ve been very fortunate this year to see a wide variety of Cormorants – all a short distance from home. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to get out and see the various migrants or even the birds in their full breeding plumage. For years as a wildlife rehabilitator, any free time in spring was spent caring for newborns of all varieties, the latest being harbor seal pups. It has of course all been worth it(!), but I’m also quite excited to have a little time to explore this time of year.
And speaking of the spring.... seeing the breeding plumage is such a delight – especially on the Brandt’s Cormorants. Blue being my favorite color, I can’t help being spell-bound by their blue plumage this time of year, and their gorgeous blue eyes. Brandt’s Cormorants – endemic to North America, and only found along the Pacific Coast - frequent our area for breeding. Unfortunately they've been at risk from a number of disturbances, including recreational marine use and commercial fishing. I usually see them arriving in the Slough, skimming the water to grab seagrass and other materials for their nests, built atop the channel markers. I laugh at myself when they're here: in my kayak, fighting the current around the channel markers, , around and around again, just to get a glimpse of their beautiful blue beauty. I'm ever so careful not to disturb, but just close enough to relish their beauty this time of the year. If I get a photo, it’s a bonus.
And while we so often see Double-crested Cormorants from our kayaks, this year I was fortunate to see them in their breeding plumage. And LOTS of them. In one of our local reservoirs recently, I counted a group of over 90(!) Double-crested (that was just those on the surface). I don’t recall ever having seen so many in one location. Clearly our Reservoir is a breeding ground and I was delighted to have a chance to see them rearing their young. I laughed at the site of the breeding plumage, with all of the head feathers sporadically shooting out of their heads, some with more wisps than others. It's a funny sight.
Earlier this spring, I also happened upon a couple of lone Pelagic Cormorants in Monterey. While I’ve seen Pelagics, it's rare and I did a double-take to make sure it was indeed a Pelagic Cormorant. Very sleek and slender, this little Cormorant is the smallest of the Cormorants. Because the largest concentration of Pelagics are up in Alaska and not nearby, I do stop and relish seeing them. Besides their small size, you can easily spot them aflight – the only Cormorant with a big white circle on their backs.
And so I’ve had tremendous gratitude - enjoying the changing of the seasons, the familiar friends like the Cormorants that come our way, and the changes they exhibit during these special times of the year. As the late American essayist, John Burroughs, has written,
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
It's another way of practicing mindfulness. What will you find in nature that will soothe and heal you? I encourage you to open your doors and go find out….
Pamela, Eyes4Nature's proprietor, enjoying life out in the field among the animals and the peacefulness of nature.