It is not unusual for me to see peregrine falcons on my morning commute. On my evening commute I can bet on seeing a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a light post. It wasn't until I read The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature that I realized how incredibly wonderful that is. In the book, Jonathan Rosen muses about how we take the birds for granted. As he puts it, if buffalo migrated through Central Park every year, New Yorkers would be crowded around to watch, but a flock of little South American canaries... eh, who cares?
The subtitle of the book, Birding at the End of Nature, has an ominous ring to it, but the book is hopeful. Watching birds can be something more than a pleasurable pastime. It is part of our American heritage and a way to connect with the rhythms of the earth. After reading the book I find myself watching the skies over Portland more than ever.
Thinking about the wild creatures in our city made me pick up my copy of Wild in the City: Guide to Portland's Natural Areas again. I reread the part about the peregrine falcons on the Fremont Bridge. I made plans to check out the water fowl at Beggar's Tick and I look forward to hanging out on Powell Butte in the summer. The book is a treasure chest of day trips, all accessible by car, bike, or TriMet.
We have lots of books to help us appreciate the wealth of nature around us. One of my favorites is Portland Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species, which has 12 laminated panels depicting city birds. The one thing this book lacks is a checklist for keeping track of what birds you've seen. Luckily the field guide Birds of Oregon has that part covered. The book is small and will fit easily in a pocket. Each page is a full-color picture of an Oregon bird. And it is fun to keep track of which ones you've seen. I'm not saying that anyone should get all crazy and competitive about bird watching — not like these guys do — however, that little checkmark might remind you of the day you saw the osprey on Sauvie Island.
Books mentioned in this post