I have an elderly mom and have become acutely aware of the tail end of life...so I am often visiting my mom and handling finances, taxes....fending off people who want to re-roof her house etc. Well, this part of life, or what sadly becomes the visitation mode, is mentally difficult and stressful but it also makes me appreciate the life I do have now and continually live. Remember, life is short and one must 'lead life' as opposed to having 'life lead you.'
The corner of Washington near the Oregon and Idaho border where my the family home is, has it's own unique birds and one of them surprisingly is the American White Pelican. Right...the pelican. In this rural community; 331 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and Astoria, Oregon we have a thriving American White Pelican population. Now, open you your bird guide and take a look at this bird. See anything that might tease you?
I skipped to a new paragraph thinking that would be enough to hide the response in. Many times in the past within various locales in this western county, white pelicans will be circling and circling and circling prior to landing on an open pasture below. But to immediately contrast to what I had just seen at Forsythe, my mind turns towards snow geese. The Kaufman field guide states that snow geese "are white with black wingtips. American White Pelicans who love to soar according to Kaufman and according to my eyesight which I almost rely more-so upon that a bird guide are reminiscent of snow geese by having "white with black flight feathers'. When you are looking at them casually, they appear 'akin'.
Now here lies the problem to this little story. Attempting to get some 'mental time' to myself I managed to escape my visitation and take a nice long walk in the country towards twilight. With me, I borrowed my dad's (he passed away a few years ago and I do miss him so) old WWll binoculars where one has to focus each eye individually making it always feel as one has some eye stigma as you gaze thru these old Navy 12 x 56mm bins.
One of the first things in my twilight walk was the sound of a Northern Flickers. The day was a bit cold....gray....but one can always distinguish a Northern Flicker in flight and when it lands it always emits this 'kleeyah' sound or 'wik wik wik' (again borrowing the tone of voice from my Kaufman guide). The familiar kleeyah sound, much like a familiar smell which one might experience, immediately bring forth a tangible memory of life 'when'....in the past. Those are good connections.
So moving on with my walk, getting a bit sore from caring a two pound binocular since in the days of this binocular, the user had an entire ship to brace themselves with as they gazed in the distance....I saw ahead of me way up the air, two birds soaring around. These two guys were 'way up there' man, oh so way up as they soared over a stubbled field of what was a thriving wheat field earlier on in the year. I briefly raised up the pounds of glass and saw white birds with black wing tips soaring off in the distance. Hmmm...American Pelicans but...but....but....no, they couldn't be. They had the wrong shape and they were in the wrong location for even Pelicans to be. And they ain't snow geese either my friend. Again, gazing up I could see as they soared at an angle to the sun which gracefully allowed the light to play off of them ... a white rump. Yepper....these were two grey ghosts soaring way up in the air. Each of these gray ghosts (who also have white wing tips and are white/gray underneath ) were taking huge circular loops with their flight patterns just knicking the others much like the Olympic Rings overlapping each. Two gray ghosts....two of them, count em..."1" over there and another "1" over there. One plus one is the same in any part of the country.
They initially fooled me, as many birds seem to have the effect upon me....but their high altitude was a trick they were playing upon me, especially as I am here in the land of American White Pelicans. Yet sadly time was short to soak in this moment and experience these two gray ghosts. Dusk was speaking to me as well as a row of trees which were silhouetted against my view. Upon return to my venue of visitation, I immediately consulted Ken Kaufman. Kaufman states in his guide that Northern Harriers 'fly low over open fields' and Northern Harriers 'usually fly low unless they are migrating'. Okay....the 'usually' part allows these birds to be soaring high but I would think by now migration has already occurred for that pair of gray ghosts. Perhaps were they were migrating 'up' as opposed to 'down' so it was a matter of me placing the word 'migration' into proper context. They were migrating towards northern Washington or southern Calgary and if so, that might be that spring is in the air. Ah, I welcome spring for not only is that a time when baseball begins anew and my team 'if in spring training only' has a chance to win the World Series (Seattle Mariners...and I have been waiting for that time to come for 39 years), but also spring migration of birds begins once more. So let the fun begin and 'bring on the gray ghosts soaring high up in the air'....
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