Friday, August 29, 2008

Seeing is Believing

We stood, gazing back in time at the stars all around us. We were on the edge of the universe. It was a place astronomers had gathered for a half century to peer into the past, hoping to predict the future. And while Kitt Peak, Arizona is hallowed ground for astronomers, it is also a marvelous spot for birders.
Susan and I were with a group of like-minded individuals from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We were in Southeast Arizona to explore the heavens as well as the flora and fauna. Among our leaders were Andy Jones, curator of ornithology, Joe DeRocher, astronomer, and Naturalist Harvey Webster. Trust me, nothing got by us, from the rings of Saturn to the rings on the neck of the Elegant Trogon, to the rings on the tail of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
What struck me as we looked out across the endless miles of space and land was how birding is connected to so many other aspects of natural history. Another thing that struck me was how people asked, “What do you expect to get from this trip?”
Expectations when you go birding (or fishing for that matter) can often lead to bitter disappointment. Better to set goals, like, don’t get hurt, or find the Flame-colored Tanager. Don’t expect not to get hurt. Don’t expect to see the tanager. The expectation, if there has to be one, is to see what nature has to offer.