|Pied-billed grebe on nest|
Symptoms: Restlessness, inability to concentrate, wistful memories of tranquil places, longing looks at one's backpack, binoculars, or bicycle...
If these symptoms sound familiar, you have been a fellow sufferer of outdoors withdrawal syndrome (OWS). Justin and I have endured it together, wondering when work, school, flu bugs, and the holidays would allow us to get back outdoors. You know it's bad when the closest you get to nature is an occasional brush with the neighborhood skunk!
Our visit to Boerne City Park today allowed us to break that spell, reconnecting us to those things in nature and within ourselves that are important. Justin donned his photo vest and relieved some of the "shutterbug-itis" that builds up in photographers' joints and muscles due to lack of use. As a fledgling birder, I borrowed Justin's binoculars and field guide while attempting to identify the multitude of birds around us. A large brush pile, deposited after the floods of Summer '97, was host to Northern cardinal, Northern mockingbird, tufted titmouse, and spotted towhee (a new "lifer" for Justin and myself!)
I wandered off, as I have a tendency to do, and walked the Marsh Trail. Walking along the mowed path amidst five-foot-tall grasses swaying in the breeze is always an interesting experience. The rustling grasses almost mesmerize you, if you let them. As I surveyed the overcast skies, I caught sight of an unidentified hawk--perhaps a red-tailed--soaring above. Shortly after the hawk left my field of view, I spotted two turkey vultures wheeling on the air currents. Simply enjoying nature again was a pleasure, so when I spooked a pied-billed grebe--a species I do not often see up close--while walking across the boardwalk, it was indeed a treat. The grebe ran in place on the water for a moment, finally gaining forward momentum and taking wing just in time to clear the boardwalk platform. Having traversed nearly the length of the park on foot, I began my walk back to the picnic area where I had left Justin. As luck would have it, he reported numerous birds in the area just around the time I disappeared!