by Denny Olson

Virtually everything seems, well, virtual. Sequestered at home, for the most part, I have been scrambling to convert most of my education efforts  — programs, PowerPoint presentations, new video productions to complement Birds Rock!, dredging out the non-hands-on parts of our educational trunks so at least part of them will be useful — I am beginning to empathize with other social beings about the need for human contact. Teachers teach, and the closer the quarters, the more effective they can be. It’s frustrating.

 It was 9/11, a somber day in an equally somber time. I rose early to meet Pam Willison at (COVID-appropriately) Camp Misery in the Jewel Basin. She promised to protect me from the grizzlies, or maybe it was “sacrifice me to”– I can’t remember. The walk-up to Hawkwatch is an hour-and-a half gradual grind — still relatively easy for me in my advanced state of decay. We set up the chair and the owl decoy, and punched in data on the phone to ready ourselves. It was a flat-out gorgeous day on Aeneas Ridge — nary a cloud (some smoke from our merciless reminders of climate havoc to the west) — and the raptors were steady and diverse. 70 raptors today. The breeze was a bit light (5-10 mph) for an all-out deluge of birds, but it was a diverse day, at least for me. Highlights were eight Merlins — all pugnacious about a one-eyed owl, an adult Prairie Falcon that was thinking about being pugnacious twenty feet over our heads, but had last-minute second thoughts.. We had a juvie Broad-winged Hawk (my first here in the West) and a beautiful intermediate phase adult Swainson’s Hawk directly overhead (Holy rufous!). A couple each of juvie Goshawks and Harriers rounded out the usual suspects.

Pam Willison hung in there all day spotting the deep divers below us in the west valley, and Kristi Rein and Karen Downs visited in the morning. Watching their curiosity change into excitement when the birds forgot their social-distancing was a joy to the teacher in me.  Connie Johnson, George Loslaben and Barb Boorman visited all afternoon. Michelle Tohtz spent about 5 hours with us as an absolute ‘hawkeye” spotter.

From isolation to the top of the world is what it felt like. Our beautiful land and it’s awe-inspiring inhabitants reminded me again that the real world does not revolve around us. The temporary inconvenience of our pandemic is meaningless to the much larger picture, which was on display on Aeneas Ridge. The word will be fine, if they have anything to say about it. Our defecations into our own nest is the issue, along with the hubris that can’t accept our own vulnerability — so toxic that we can’t even wear face masks to help out the even more vulnerable. Maybe, just maybe, this uniquely human pandemic problem might pound some sense into us. I’m still waiting. The birds? They’ll keep flying, like they always have. Whether we are here or not. Get up there, if you are at all able. It is a guaranteed attitude adjustment.