Monday, August 16, 2010

A Lifer

When you've birded for more than 40 years, the thrill of finding a species you've never seen before becomes a rare event indeed, unless you venture far from home into rainforest or remote oceanic islands. Yet most of the time we are right here, at home, in familiar surroundings. And the outdoors still calls, and the beauty of birds remains as fresh as ever. So we gradually shift our focus from the excitement of seeing a new species for the first time (after all, years can go by without a lifer in North America!), to an absorption in the behavior of these critters, in the patterns of their migrations, in the special chance encounters that each day in the field brings.

And while our loyalty may stay with the first organisms that inspired our wonder, we can find ourselves taking more notice of the other creatures around us. Then suddenly, we are experiencing anew the wonder of discovery, of seeing a species for the very first time, of seeing freshly, with original eyes (as Saul Bellow wrote).

One of the bonuses of taking up a new interest in some aspect of nature is that the lifers––those species savored for the very first time––come much more frequently. We also discover a new realm that has always been before us, little noticed, and that suddenly blooms in intricate detail and beauty.

Butterflies are now leading me down the garden path (even though I'll still focus first on an unrecognized bird song, or a feathered vagrant). This week brought a new lifer, right here, maybe 5 miles from my home in Portal: a Fulvia Checkerspot. And it's a beauty!

Fulvia Checkerspot (Photos by Narca)

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