.......and Reflections

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Late Summer Rain

In the last four weeks I have visited the Great Smokey Mountains Institute in Tennessee for the 2011 Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) Annual Summit, an Ohio Division of Wildlife Biodiversity Summit at Mohican State Park and State Forest in north central Ohio, and the American Birding Association (ABA) Midwest Birding Symposium at Lakeside, Ohio on the Marblehead Peninsula on Lake Erie.

I got to spend quality time with friends, colleagues and associates in the birding community, nature center profession, natural history program participants and many new contacts along the way. It reminds me of how fortunate I am to associate with so many people that share a passion for natural history, birding and conservation.

My proudest moment was attending a program presented at the Midwest Birding Symposium. Wyatt Miller was a presenter in a program provided by Ohio Young Birders, a program spear-headed by Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Northwest Ohio. Wyatt, his brother and Mother birded with me some time ago at Sandy Ridge Reservation of the Lorain County Metroparks a few years ago. This young man has developed into a great birder and a leader among peers. He is the product of a random act of sharing birds. He credits me for inspiration but the real hero is his mother, Debbie, that has nurtured her sons as all great parents do.

With all the social and professional interaction I was ready to do some solo birding. I was a guide at the Midwest Birding Symposium and it was a tough row-to-hoe with lousy weather and minuscule bird movement. I had hopes that  the birding would improve with an approaching cold front.

I went to Mill Hollow at the Vermilion Reservation of the Lorain County Metroparks in northern Ohio. The weather looked promising but deteriorated with every hour. I exited my truck in a steady but gentle rain. I entertained heading home but I decided to head down the trail in spite of the rain.

Rain can add a magical dimension to the birding experience that starts with an attitude adjustment. Today wasn't cold or hot. It was raining with short interludes. It was a wonderful summer's-end rain. The familiar trail looks different, somehow, in the rain. I think the low light brings out colors of flowers and vegetation that makes it all look almost like a different place.

The fall migrant birds were present and I saw 9 species of warblers and a surprise Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Philadelphia Vireo. The birds were absent in the steady rain but appeared as soon as the rain let up or stopped. While the birding was slow I photographed flowers and mushrooms. There is an abundance of of food at the end of summer. Fruiting Grey Dogwood, Poison Ivy, Wild Grape, and Virginia Creeper provide a bounty of food for migrating songbirds. The leaves of trees and plants harbor catepilars and larvae and adult insects and spiders. The rain fell and creating a soothing rustle as it fell on the forest trees and on meadows. It wasn't a distraction but rather a welcome companion.

I couldn't help recall watching Manakins on their lek in the tropical central American rainforst in an afternoon deluge. The rain enhanced the experience there, and the rain enhanced today's experience as well. I walked the trail slowly. I embraced the company of the rain and I found birds and saw things in a way I would not have had I confronted the weather as an inconvenience.

It was a nice change from the commotion of conferences, programs, agendas and groups needing a leader. It was a time to explore the nature trail through the rain drops. I am living a chapter in my life beyond working. Retirement is a strange new world that is defined one week and one month at a time. It is comforting to know that whatever life adjustments are required, nature is a welcome constant. My retirement is reversing priorities. Enjoying nature is the main priority and the social and professional functions are secondary.

My recent meetings allowed me to spend time with people that know no boredom. They are never so busy not to take time to spend time in the natural world. One discovers that retirement isn't the time after career, but a process that balances the other responsibilities thrown at us in life. When work life ends the late summer rain is a soothing and welcoming dimension to the things one loves.

I haven't blogged for a while but I'm back on track, energized by those I respect and the prospect of gentle rain and new perspectives about the things I love and enjoy.

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