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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Goose and Chicks — Drawing by Pat Bean

Sometimes it seems the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, but the pansies keep on blooming – year in year out.” — Jack Scott.

Thankfully, that’s true, I thought, as I pondered the words of the former Canadian rock and roll singer. I came across Scott’s words as I was rereading one of my journals, this one filled between the summer of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

Every few pages seemed to contain a quote that had impressed me or gave me pause for thought. As a writer, I greatly appreciate when another writer expresses a thought in just the perfect words.

I’m usually just as impressed when rereading them, although occasionally I do come across a quote that leaves me pondering what I had been thinking back then, because the words seem to have no meaning to me on this day.

The mind is a strange thing.

Anyway, while skimming through my filled journal, along with Scott’s words, I came across the following ones that meant as much to me today as when I first wrote them down. They sounded like words of wisdom and they shouted at me to share them.

“Rest and you rust.” –Helen Hayes

“If you really do not want to do it, just say No!’ –Annette Aben

If all things are in a state of constant change, then human behavior can change too – and for the better.” –Aldo Leopold.

“Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your seat belt.” – Julia Cameron

“The clearest way into the universe is though a forest wilderness.” – John Muir.

And finally, “Honor your life by laughing more.” – Pat Bean. It is, after all, my journal.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Saw -Whet owl — Art piddling by Pat Bean

Poet Mary Oliver writes that we should make the best of our “one and precious life.” I agree. The quandary is how to do that when you’re 83, and not by a long shot as agile as you once were, and you’re retired from what you once thought of as a meaningful job.

I’ve created myself a happy life, filled mostly with reading, writing, piddling with art, watching birds, spending time with friends, and having the time to connect the life I’ve lived with what’s going on in the world today.

Mostly, it’s satisfying. But there’s still something missing. I want to somehow have an influence on making the world a better place.

When I was a working newspaper reporter, I felt useful in that I kept readers informed of their community and felt blessed that I got to write about people who were doing positive things in the world — even if I also had to write about people who were doing the opposite, too.

I also felt extremely lucky that I loved my job, and that it gave me a sense that I counted for something in this world.

That feeling is gone. I’ve become a spuddler, one who satisfies herself with trivial things.

I recently expressed these things to a friend, who told me to stop thinking so much and simply enjoy the life I had earned. I love my friends.

And then I came across these words by author and poet Donna Ashworth; Ageing isn’t about lost youth, it’s about finding the difference between shiny and worthy … and the time to dedicate to the things that bring you joy. It’s the wisdom to say no to the things that don’t… The courage to be happy in your own skin. It’s about finding out who you were meant to be, all along.

I love being an old broad – most of the time.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Great Horned Owl

“Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese and freight trains,” said Aldo Leopold.

I could easily be added to that list. For most of my working career, I reported to the office no later than 6:30 a.m. – and I wasn’t beloved for doing so. 

There would usually be one or two other reporters who had come in early to meet their early-morning deadline for a story they had covered the night before. They would be sitting in the dark in front of their computers.

As a light-loving, morning person, I would turn on the lights and utter a cheery “Good morning!” All I usually got back was a snarl or a groan.

Scamp, my current canine companion, insists on a walk at the first sign of dawn, often when stars are still visible. He usually wakes up even before I do, but this morning the tables were turned. I had taken him for a later-than-usual last walk yesterday, and he was still snoring away when I awoke at 5:55 a.m.

I let him sleep until 6:10, when I couldn’t stand it anymore and roused him for our morning walk. We came back and he promptly went back to sleep while I enjoyed drinking my cream-laced coffee and watching the birds from my third-floor balcony. There were sparrows, mourning doves, hummingbirds and house finches, but no geese.

As for trains, when I was traveling across the country in my RV, I often heard a train somewhere nearby blow its whistle right around 6 a.m. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if all train engineers had a pact to took their horns at daybreak.

Then there are the great horned owls. We have resident ones who yearly raise chicks here in the apartment complex. I often hear them hooting in the early mornings, and sometimes I even see them zooming overhead between tall Ponderosa pines and the red-tile rooftops. Their silent, broad-winged flight always leave me awed.

Yesterday, a great horned owl was sitting on a large tree stump near my path. I’m pretty sure it was a juvenile because of how close it let me come. After spotting it, I took Scamp back to the apartment and grabbed my camera.

With each snap, I got closer to the owl until I was only about 10 feet away. The bird didn’t move, just stared straight at me with golden yellow eyes. I snapped a few more shots before retreating so as not to disturb the owl more.

I was excited about the photos I had taken, but later I discovered the memory card in my camera had been missing. It was still in my computer from the last time I had downloaded my photos.

I guess my brain, if not my body, decided it wanted to sleep in.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited) and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Books and Birds make me happy. — Art by Pat Bean

I’m currently reading Bury the Dead by Louise Penny, whose protagonist features Armand Gamache, a homicide inspector in Quebec. He’s an older man who’s risen through the ranks to a leadership position, and a thoughtful man whose mind is always pondering about the people he meets and what makes them tick.

I wouldn’t call Louise’s books a cozy. They’re darker than that, but the darkness comes more from looking into the corridors of the black places in the mind of possible suspects than blood and gore.

Reading Penny’s words this morning was like taking a graduate course in psychology. It was wonderful.

I came away with bits of wisdom and much to ponder about how the author’s words translate to my own life. One of the many thoughts of wisdom scattered throughout the book, was the idea that things are clearer from a distance. Quite true. I know that from experience. But then I also know, as did Gamache, that from a distance, details are missing. So, which is view is more important, he and I pondered.

I decided the best option is to be able to view an event from both distances, a tip I should keep in mind when pondering life events. Even an old broad can learn something new.

A few pages later, another character told Gamache: “Sometimes life goes in a direction not of our choosing. That’s why we need to adapt.”

Recalling all the directional detours in my own life, I silently said Amen to that – which was quite appropriate as the character speaking was a pastor. But not just a pastor, one who would rather canoe a half-frozen river than sit one-on-one with a dying parishioner. He did both. Because he felt weak for not wanting to do the second task, he was doing the adventure to prove to himself that he was strong.

Penny brings her characters to life on the pages, even the minor ones feel like they are worth knowing.

As I put down the book to go wash my breakfast dishes, I thought about how fortunate I was to have books like Penny’s to read. And then another thought hit me. Bury the Dead was only the sixth in the Gamache series and the author has written 17.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Broad-Billed Hummingbird — Wikimedia Photo

I have seen eight different hummingbird species from my third-floor Catalina Foothills apartment balconies since moving to Tucson in 2013. One of these was a Lucifer’s hummingbird that sat in a nearby tree but didn’t visit my nectar feeder. It was a lifer, a first-time sighting that hasn’t happened again.

My field guide says this hummer only comes as far north as the tips of southern Arizona and Texas and is only rarely seen. I did a double take when I saw it, and triple-checked my bird guide before I accepted what I was looking at. The bird, a male, had a distinctive purple patch on its neck and a long, decurved bill. So, I finally decided it couldn’t be anything but a Lucifer.

I was thrilled, as it’s rare for me to see a new species now that my lifer list has grown to over 700 species.

In contrast, I almost daily see Anna’s hummingbirds, the male of which has a head that shimmers a brilliant magenta. I have one Anna’s that sits on a branch in the tree next to my front balcony — and attacks any other hummers that come in range. It’s quite a show to watch when he’s in residence.

But since he can’t be on guard broad every minute, I also see quite a few broadtail hummingbirds with their rose-red throats and wings that produce a trilling whir when they are flapping. The Anna’s makes a sharp clicking sound instead, which makes the two species easy to tell apart when they’re zipping around. This is especially true if the birds are the less distinctive females.

The broadbills, meanwhile, don’t seem to be as intimidated by the Anna’s as some of the other species that hover around my nectar feeder, which is probably why they are the second most common hummingbird to visit.

The next two most common visitors are the black-chinned, a smaller bird with a dark head and a sometimes-visible purple throat, and a broad-billed, a darker colored bird and the only visitor with an orange bill.

It’s taken hours of study for me to now identify my hummingbird visitors, and I still keep my bird guide close by. But being able to identify the birds I see is a major part of the enjoyment I get from birdwatching. It’s kind of like the thrill I get from reading a mystery book and correctly guessing who the killer is before the author reveals it.

I considered the time well-spent.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited) and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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An emu dad is a candidate for father of the year. He takes care of chicks, even if they are not his own, for up to 18 months.

  In 1999, at a time in my life when I was slowing down, I took up birdwatching. It’s still been about the only thing I’ve ever done that absolutely requires patience, something I always thought couch-potatoes used as an excuse to Be lazy.

 In the beginning, I spent hours and hours on the Antelope Island Causeway in Great Salt Lake learning to identify ducks. The island was also the first place I saw a bird through a telescope. It was a western meadowlark, and the golden color of the bird’s throat took my breath away.

 As I learned more and more about these winged creatures, I became partial to the ones that seemed to be feminists, outshining or out-sexing the normally more colorful males.

First there was the belted kingfisher. I was delighted to learn that the female was the more colorful of the two genders. It sports a reddish belly band on its blue and white feathers which the male lacks.

 Then came the Galapagos hawk, which I saw in the Galapagos. The female, after she lays her eggs, leaves all the nest sitting and chick-tending to her male partner, while she goes off and finds another male to mate with.

 This somewhat made up for most birds, like sage grouse males whose only contribution to their female partners is to impregnate them, which takes no more time than two blinks of an eye.

The males gather in what is called a lek, and drum by expanding their chests to attract the females, who to my feminist delight were very picky and often walked away. I got to watch this action, after hiking before dawn to a blind on Desert Ranch in Utah.

Another avian feminist is the African jacana, a bird I saw during a 2007 safari to Kenya and Tanzania.  It’s a wading bird species in which the female also leaves all the chick rearing to the male while she finds another partner.

 Then there’s the giant emu. After producing an egg, the brooding, and then the care and feeding of the hatchlings is all the male’s responsibility, even if all the eggs aren’t his own. He has even learned how to carry a chick beneath his wings.

 You go girls?

 Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Enjoy Today: It’s a Gift

Some of the best trails end at waterfalls, like this one in Idaho. – Photo by Pat Bean

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today’s a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” These words from Bil Keane, a cartoonist best known for his The Family Circus strip, had special meaning for me this morning when I reread words from a decade-old journal.

  At this time, I was still exploring this country, mostly on backroads, in the small RV in which I lived and traveled for nine years.

On November 10, 2010, I listed 100 things I was thankful for. On seeing this list again, I saw that some of those things, when I was 71, were not applicable to the 83-year-old I will be in just a few days.

 On the upside, I’m still thankful for belly laughs, good cream-laced coffee, being a writer, my zest for life and hot baths – and thankful for my family, which has grown by four great-grandchildren the past 12 years.

 But I still miss my canine companion Maggie, a mischievous cocker spaniel who spent eight years on the road with me, and my nature hikes, which have been curtailed by a bad back.

   While Maggie has been replaced by a spoiled Siberian husky/shih tzu-mix canine companion, whose name of Scamp perfectly fits him, my trail days have been replaced with short walks around my apartment complex with the Scamp. Some days I can comfortably walk an eighth of a mile, and on other days much less.

  While there are many blessings that have come with my years, including the gift of time to ponder as well as write, actually liking myself, and learning to slow down and really see Mother Nature’s wonders, I mourn my lost hiking ability.

 Thankfully, I seldom let an opportunity to go on a hike pass me by when I was younger. And thankfully I can still drive back roads and park in scenic spots where I can bird watch at a trailhead. In my younger days, one of my older birding colleagues did just that – and often saw more birds than those of us who took the trail.  

But take it from this old broad. If there is something you love to do, make sure you do it while you can. It makes it easier to continue being thankful for what you still have, and more able to see what you gain from the passing years.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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The Meadowlark and the Chukar: I wrote a bird column for three years back in the early 2000s, and a chukar I saw on Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake was the first bird I wrote about. — Art by Pat Bean

 My mornings start with my to-do list, which is a carry over from the day before, and the day before that, and the days before those. Eventually a dreaded chore finally gets done because I’m tired of looking at it.

The daily list actually is two lists in one. The tasks I need to do, or simply want to do (like watch a bird cam located in Panama), and the list of the books I’m reading, or want to read.

As an old broad, my body appreciates many breaks during the day, and the reading list gives me something to fall back on besides computer games – which according to my self-imposed rule must not be played before 4 p.m. This rule, because I love playing games is often broken. So as a reminder I have a note taped to my refrigerator that says “You could be reading.”

 Besides the daily list, I keep lists of books I’ve read, places I’ve been, the proverbial bucket list, menu lists and an idea list, from which I always can find a topic to write about.

But one of my favorite lists is the one I begin on April 1, 1999 – the day I joined the world of avid (translate crazy) bird watchers.

 I keep a list of every bird I’ve seen, noting the place and the date. But thankfully, I’m not like the birder who once passed me on a favorite birding trail. I was dawdling along, watching red-winged blackbirds flash their scarlet marked wings while listening to a couple of breeding male meadowlarks trying to out sing each other.

Barely slowing his pace, a middle-aged hiker came upon me and asked if I had seen a chukar. I replied that I often saw this partridge-like bird in the rocks near a bend up ahead. About 10 minutes later, the man ran past me going the other way. 

  “Got it … that’s 713 birds for me now.” His voice was like the rumble of a passing freight train.

How sad, I thought, that he didn’t take a minute to admire the flashy scarlet markings on the blackbirds or to enjoy the melodic voices of the two meadowlarks.

 Numbers and names on a list are only that. It’s being present in the moment – seeing the golden yellow on a meadowlark’s throat as it tilts its head toward the sky in song, or the magic of a sunrise slowly coloring the sides of a canyon – that make my heart beat faster. And I’m thankful I enjoy such wonders whether I’m seeing them for the first or the hundredth time.

 Seeing birds is always delightful – but then so is getting my oven cleaned after seeing the chore on my to-do list for three weeks running.

  I’m glad I’m a list-maker.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining. 

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Sketching and watching birds, like this Gila Woodpecker, is one way I get my mind off the chaos of daily news headlines.

Agreement is Rare

Political speaking, when it comes to certain things, especially politics, my family pretty much has America covered – and for peace’s sake we usually keep our views to ourselves.

 With a great margin for error, this is how I see things among my five children.

I have one child to the left of me, one child to the right of me, one child that knows without a doubt that their side, whatever it is, is always the right side, one child who gets quite passionate about their particular side, and one child who appears not to follow the political arena at all.

That last may be the lucky one. I tried not reading a newspaper for the first four months after I retired from being a newspaper journalist. It was a relaxing, but not a satisfying time, in my life. I came to the conclusion that sticking my head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on in the world is not for me.

These days, reading the NY Times, and then the varied and even conflicting news on my computer’s home page while I drink cream-laced coffee in the morning, gives me plenty to think about — and fume about — for the rest of the day.

 My children grew up in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s’, and we often talked about world events. We seldom agreed back then on anything either.

I actually take pride in that. It means I raised independent children who mostly took an interest in the world they lived in and learned to think for themselves.

 With my own family as a role model, I know it’s possible to get along without chaos, ugliness or war — even if there’s no way in hell, we’re ever likely to agree with one another.

I suspect it works because we all care about and love each other – and have the sense, at least most of the time, to keep our political opinions to ourselves. 

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited) and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Tic-Yock-Tick-Tock

About eight years ago, my then 13-year-old grandson Tony, gave me a kooky clock, one with a brightly-colored bird representing each hour. On the hour, the clock chimed with a representation of that bird’s voice.

In order from 1 o’clock, the birds were Mallard (quack-quack), Mourning Dove (coo-coo), Ring-Necked Pheasant (kok-cack), American Woodcock (chirp-chirp), Northern Bobwhite (bob-white, bob-white), Canada Goose (honk-a-lonk), California Quail (chi-ca-go), Ruffed Grouse (cluck-cluck), Wood Duck (oo-eek, oo-eek), Wilson’s Snipe (wheet-wheet), Green-Winged Teal (krick-krack), and Wild Turkey (gobble, gobble).

At first, all was well. Each bird sounded out on its hour – or so I thought, Then I realized that while a bird sounded on each hour, it was never the right bird according to the pictures on the clock.

After a while of this, the bird sounds began to resemble no bird sounds I had ever heard. It was a cacophony of rumble, grumbles and even low roars – well except for the voice of the Bob White, which while not on the right hour always comes out a clear bob-white, bob-white.

When I have visitors and the clock grackles and roars, the guest always jump and ask “What was that?”

My granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn, who are frequent visitors and always trying to look out for me, finally said they were going to buy me a new clock.

“No!” I firmly told them. “I have a one-of-a-kind-of-a-clock that fits my eclectic apartment and lifestyle. It fits me – and it keeps perfect time. It’s not broken, it’s just odd – and odd is OK!”

I love my clock.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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