Dispatches from a bird walk

As the weather has warmed up, I’ve been taking more and more mini-hikes on my own. The dark, cold winter can be hard on my mental health, and a decent hour of morning sunshine works wonders.

Often I travel no further than North Shields Ponds, a mile from my house, where there’s a short, flat trail that winds first along a stretch of the Poudre River and then around the ponds it’s named for.

I bring my binoculars, though I rarely get moving early enough for prime bird spotting. Today, just as I had decided I wasn’t going to find anything interesting, a blue jay came squawking out of the brown landscape and across my path. When I got him in my scope he hung around to put on a show for me, rotating around on his perch until I could see the full, vibrant pattern of his feathers.

Blue jays are always a reminder of my grandfather Jay and the bird feeders he and my grandmother kept in their yard — but the bird that I really associate with my grandfather is the woodpecker. I told the jay — yes, I speak to the birds sometimes, there was no one else on the trail to care — that I was happy to see him, but that if Jay wanted to say hello, he should send a woodpecker instead. (Jay disliked that jays are aggressive toward other birds at the feeders.)

Sure enough, when I rounded the corner a few minutes later, the first thing I heard was the drumming of a woodpecker.

Don’t squint in an attempt to find birds in these photos. I don’t even bother trying to photograph them.

I hung around the area for a few minutes, anything but optimistic that I’d be able to locate the woodpecker — but he kept drumming and led me right to him.

We don’t get the same woodpeckers in Colorado as in Ohio. Here — or at North Shields Ponds, at least — I know to look for the Northern Flicker.

My flicker simply perched on that branch and kept drumming for me. (I know it’s called “drumming” because this incredible app I use, Merlin Bird ID, also includes songs, calls, and more. I use it constantly, even with birds I am familiar with.)

My late grandfather probably didn’t send me a bird (err, two birds) to wish me well, but he did instill in me the love of a slow walk in nature, the kind that gives the birds time to show up for you.

P.S. As soon as the weather turns and I start doing more riveting things than chasing birds around ponds, you’ll be the first to know.

Hello, gorgeous.
Subscribe to
Word from the West
Invalid email address
You can unsubscribe at any time. Promise.

3 thoughts on “Dispatches from a bird walk

  1. We have Flickers in Ohio! We discovered them a few years ago at my mother in law’s house and always look for them now. I’m glad that they’re in Colorado too! <3

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.