That last cold, drizzly Friday before Christmas, when most people were juggling school parties, baking, shopping, and wrapping gifts, a small but intrepid group of bird watchers slogged through the pastures and fields in a seven-mile radius around Milnesand participating in the 114th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
On that dreary next-to-the-shortest day of the year, the Milnesand birders — believe it or not — spotted more than 1,200 birds representing 36 species.
Although my name was entered on the official list of six participants for the event, I must confess that I am a complete lightweight when it comes to bird watching, especially in inclement weather.
My contribution involved sitting by my fireplace, café Vienna in hand, and — through the branches of our Christmas tree — keeping an eye on the feeders and bird bath outside the picture window. It was grueling, but somebody had to do it.
I also had the foresight to invite my culinary-wizard friend, Louise, to help prepare lunch for the five real birders, knowing that she’d provide important sustenance. She did not disappoint. If you are ever assigned to a Christmas Bird Count, I heartily recommend triple chocolate mousse cake for stamina and inspiration.
I was invited outside after lunch to join the others in the freezing rain.
It was a wonderful 10 minutes.
Betty Williamson loves nature as long as it involves coffee and fireplaces. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.