Sunday, January 4, 2009

Birding in the winter?

A quote from a legendary herper reads:
"Only with awareness of all life - plant and animal - can the greatest pleasure be gained from field activities...As with a lovely mosaic, each piece by itself may have beauty of line and color and possess a certain independent aesthetic value, but when it finds its place in the pattern as a whole, and is viewed in relation to its fellow pieces, it attains the greatest worth and gives the greatest delight". -Karl Kauffeld, (Snakes: The Keeper and the Kept)
This is a wonderful thought, but I almost totally disagree. When it comes to plants and vegetation, it is enough for me to know which ones will tear into my flesh so that I can avoid them (note: if snakes slither into Urtica dioica, do not pursue without gloves & long sleeves). I can identify some plants/trees that I find attractive, but to tell the truth w/o a field guide I can't distinguish between astragalus deserticus and gilia caespitosa and yet I thoroughly enjoy myself anytime I go outdoors. Only a few insects amuse me, but I try to be kind to them all.
There was a time in my life when birds, especially birds of prey were very fascinating to me. Utah has an abundance of bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, kingfishers, and other cool birds that are easy to find (I saw an almost completely white snowy owl the other day), but many times I have witnessed kestrels catch and feed on herps. This doesn't make me happy. If anything that preys upon snakes suddenly goes extinct, I probably wont be found shedding any tears over it.
Bird watching in the winter could be a replacement for herping, but so could snowmobile hill-climbing!