Submitted by Naomi Birkenhead
Tantalizing rays of the early morning sun, danced invitingly through my living room window. I downed the last little bit of my spinach and cilantro smoothie, donned my trail shoes and headed for Kenna Cartwright; the parking lot already dotted with vehicles as I pulled in. With my music cued and ear-buds in, I was pumped and focused. I smiled when I saw a chalk board with two bird names scribbled on it, Sparrow and Crow, anchored to the trail map sign.
I hit the main Tower trail and was immediately greeted by Chipping Sparrows bobbing about the trail edge as the plumper bodies of the Tree Sparrow perched in the bushes. As I rounded the first corner, a quick flash of sleek yellow bodies darted from my right followed by three larger birds. I stopped my brisk pace to see if I could identify them. A dragonfly appeared in the gap between the trees as I squinted. And then it happened; the unique insect capturing behavior of the King Bird. Both Western and Eastern were present feeding alongside the American Goldfinch, my sleek yellow birds. I pulled my ear buds out to listen to the chatter and soon realized that Pine siskin’s, Tree and Violet-Green Swallows also mingled.
I took a moment before turning my attention back to the rutted trail to get on with my intended purpose, and as much as I enjoy birds, I had a precise Objective.
I hit the final corner on the Tower trail and headed off to my right down the steep Balsa Root trail to Lichen Traverse. I’d hardly begun to quicken my pace from a brisk warm up hike to a run when the flickering in the trees distracted me once more.
Again I noted numerous genera. All three Nuthatch species, Pygmy, Red breasted, and White Breasted busily scurried up, down and around the tree trunks. A single Spotted Towhee skipped through as the call of both Mountain and Black Capped Chickadees; notable difference is the mountain has a striped head as the black-cap, has a black cap, rung out. A few Junco’s with their bright white tail strip and distinguished black hood, earning them my nick name of the “executioner,” flitted from bush to bush as I slowly crept into the frenzied activity. A tiny Flycatcher I couldn’t’ identify, also lent its voice.
I stood completely enthralled when the rhythmic coo of a few Crows joined the wondrous impromptu session of nature’s orchestra. I finally plugged my ear buds back in and hit the Elevator. As I huffed and puffed my way to the top, I couldn’t help but marvel. The last few weeks leading up to this day had been less than ideal and made me question how we all manage to survive our own interactions. Yet, here I stood, in the midst of a harmonious consortium with a plethora of species each in their own way completely distinct; and despite all their differences, all their own rituals, routines, quirks and even fierce protection of their territories, homes and each other—when needed—a single common denominator bound them together: an undeclared respect reverberated from the lichen covered branches and encompassed the forest with the sole resolve of sharing in this earth and all it gives.
Having successfully completed my loop, I ended my run by marking the species I encountered on the chalk board with the hope that someone else’s journey through the park might encompass Mind, Body and Birds.
Birder Tip: A great bird guide to have on hand is-BIRDS of Interior BC and the Rockies, by Richard Cannings.