The Unkindness of Ravens and Other Bird Stories

20 Aug

So, imagine a meadow.  It’s high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Imagine that it is set below the road and it’s a big meadow.  We’re seeing it late in the season so there aren’t many flowers in the meadow.  Standing above the grass in many places is skunk cabbage.  Imagine this peaceful, quiet meadow.

Imagine you are driving up to the meadow, staring out at it as it goes by in a kind of “we’ve been driving all day looking at beautiful things” stupor.  Imagine that you suddenly realize that you are looking at ravens out in that meadow.  Lots of ravens more than 25 ravens but less than 50 ravens.  Still, lots and lots of ravens.

Imagine that you sit bolt upright shrieking at your husband, “BACK UP!  BACK UP!  BACK UP!”  and as you fumble for the camera and he fumbles to back up, you watch the ravens lift off the meadow because they just heard a car slam into reverse while a crazy person screaming out it’s open window.  Imagine that because there is no photo of that moment.

Later in the trip, imagine you are in a boat, cruising around a beautiful lake.  Imagine that you see a bird flying overhead.  It’s a big bird, a very big bird.  A very, very big bird flying overhead with a white head.  And white tail feathers.  Imagine your camera is at the other end of the boat.  You call out, “Look a Bald Eagle.”  Everyone watches it fly over you.  No one takes a picture.

Imagine that about an hour later, you stop at a quiet spot on the lake to let everyone swim.  Imagine that you see a big bird flying through the trees. Imagine that you can see that this is a very big bird as well.  Imagine that you can see that it does not have a white head or tail.  Imagine that it’s a juvenile Bald Eagle.  Imagine that everyone with you is thrilled but no one takes a picture.

Imagine on your drive home, you have your camera sitting next to you on the passenger seat as you drive behind your motorhome (long story, no worries).  Imagine that you are driving through ranch lands.  No trees, slightly rolling hills covered in dry, yellow grass.  Imagine that you see something on a fence post ahead.

As you get closer, imagine how big it looks.  Silly really sitting on a fence post.  Imagine it is brown and huge.  Bigger than a hawk.  Big.  Imagine as you get close, it turns its head towards you and you see it’s enormous beak.  It’s an eagle.  A big brown eagle.  A Golden Eagle.  Imagine you consider slamming the breaks on and deleting pictures of kids tubing as quickly as possible to get at least one amazing shot of a Golden Eagle sitting on a too small fence post.  Imagine that you know it will never work that stopping will scare the bird away and you’d never navigate the camera controls fast enough anyway.

Imagine you watch it in your rearview mirror as you drive by and watch it realize the fence post is ridiculously small.  Imagine that you see it lift off and fly out of view.  Imagine how long it takes it to disappear from sight as it flies away from you driving away from it.  Imagine how big that bird was.

So, I saw some cool birds on my trip but none of them let me take pictures of them.  The only bird picture I got was a fuzzy sparrow by a mountain stream.  I’m not posting it.  So, they say a picture’s worth a thousand words.  Well, I’ve only got the words.  Enjoy.


9 Responses to “The Unkindness of Ravens and Other Bird Stories”

  1. jayne 20 August, 2008 at 2:38 am #

    Oh, but your description is worth the photos Liza! I was so excited for you. We believe you, really, we do! :c) You do have “pictures” etched in your brain forevermore!

  2. bevson 20 August, 2008 at 3:24 am #

    We have all been there. You description or my imagination is terrific. You saw some great birds!

  3. Crafty Green Poet 20 August, 2008 at 3:49 am #

    I think those memories are worth more than photos in some ways – you’ve got the moment in your mid and we’ve got your words….

  4. KGMom 20 August, 2008 at 4:35 am #

    Imagine a family went on vacation and had a GRAND time, saw some cool birds–and has only memories to recall the time. That, and Liza Lee to help us all visualize it!
    We believe.

  5. Lynne at Hasty Brook 20 August, 2008 at 5:39 am #

    It was thrilling just your telling of the tales!

  6. robin andrea 20 August, 2008 at 6:57 am #

    I love your description of those moments. I could easily imagine it. When Roger and I were in Santa Cruz last week, we went up to campus. On the ride back down through the great meadow I noticed a very large bird flying low above the golden grass. I thought it was a big hawk until it rose and flew directly in front of our car– a beautiful golden eagle. No photograph, but oh what a memorable picture.

  7. Laura 20 August, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    I think the story’s better than the pics! So there.

  8. backyardbirdman 21 August, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    OMG Liza, I was laughing until I cried reading your post. We have all been there, even trying to get the binoculars up quick enough sometimes is hard enough. Thanks so much for your great insight into your birding trip. Isn’t that Golden Eagle beautiful?

  9. Mary Carlson 22 August, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    Great job describing all those great moments, Liza. We’ve all been there, too, not getting the shots we wished we could have gotten. Most of the places you’ve described sounded quite familiar to me and it was easy to visualize exactly what happened and where. Thanks for the moment to shut my eyes and visualize it.

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