Living on the banks of the South Platte River this past year has been spiritually uplifting for me. I walk every morning, binoculars in hand, and spend about 2 hours saying hello to the birds. I usually have 25-30 species a day during this season, and have added some new birds to my list. Right now, I hear the soft, twittering, begging calls of baby birds in their nests in the cottonwoods. Bullock’s Orioles, Gray Catbirds, Western Kingbirds, House Wrens, Yellow Warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Cliff Swallows are the dominant nesters and busiest feeders. Yellow-breasted Chats and Common Yellowthroats call from the cattails and riverbank shrubs, but they just like to vex me by calling and calling and not letting me see them very often. I love seeing Black-crowned Night Herons in their fancy dress tuxedoes, silently stalking the faster water. Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets fish the river, White Pelicans cruise the nearby lakes and kettle up high in the sky. An Osprey pair raised their young on a nest nearby, and Red-tailed Hawks and Goshawks are common. I won’t even start naming the species of ducks I see, except for the Wood Ducks, two families of whom brighten up the river.
The Wood Duck stars in my new calendar for 2021. Twelve new paintings have been completed and production will be complete by late August. With so many retailers closed, it will be a challenge to sell them this year, but they have been so very popular in the past 5 years, that I am hopeful.
I assume that sheltering-in-place has had everyone reading more books than usual; probably watching more TV, too. Of course, book stores and libraries are closed, so ordering online and downloading books to e-readers is the norm for many of us. I have been re-reading books that have been on my shelves for years and that has turned out to be a real pleasure, but I’ve also read a couple of new books that have been pleasing: Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams; Overstory by Richard Powers; Deep Creek by Pam Houston and A Song for the River by Philip Connors. All are environmental treatises, and all are well written and compelling reads.