Notes, birds, nature, meanderings.

Musings about birds, nature, and our meanderings on the Central Oregon Coast

Friday, September 14, 2012

When you stop looking

Early this year my cousin sent me an anonymous quote, in Spanish, that basically translates to "Sometimes things come when you stop looking".   I adopted it as my mantra, and have attached it to my signature line in my emails.  It reminds me of C. S. Lewis's "Surprised by Joy". 

Then yesterday I saw another similar quote that prompted this blog:
We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.  But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one. -- Kent Nerburn
To say that it has applied fully to my birding experiences over the past year is an understatement.

Last winter there were Snowy Owls -- for the first time I was tempted to "chase" - that is, to get in the car and drive to wherever one had been spotted so I could see it for myself.  When we heard about one down near Florence, we did just that -- and "dipped" -- that is, no owl.
River Otters

But while we were looking, we saw movement along the Siltcoos River bank - a family of RIVER OTTERS were climbing up out of the water.  They rolled and played as we watched in awe. 

When we got home, I laughed at myself for succumbing to the temptation and decided to enjoy others' Snowy Owls vicariously.  Five days later, on a cold cold December day, I was walking the trail at Salishan and ran into a lady with a camera - we chatted for a bit, then she said, "I came to see if the Snowy Owl is still here".  My jaw dropped - apparently she had discovered it the previous day and came back to see it and get pictures.  "May I walk with you?"  She looked dubiously at my flip-flops and shrugged.

Snowy Owl, Siletz Bay

My first-ever live glimpse of a SNOWY OWL.  What a heart-stopping moment of joy!  How wonderful that she was willing to share her discovery with me!

Snowy Owl

She asked me not to share the location, and I didn't - but eventually word got out and many people came to see the gorgeous bird.  I went back a few times, both to get better photos and to just sit and enjoy watching him!

Walking back along the trail the same day, I startled a GREAT BLUE HERON - but rather than flying away, he circled and settled right above my head.
Great Blue Heron

Later that December, I was walking alone through another of my favorite locations, Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island - there's a point along the trail, about halfway, where there's a bit of a climb and I'm generally out of breath.  For some reason, I looked up:

Cooper's Hawk

A beautiful COOPER'S HAWK was having lunch on a branch above the trail.  It was the closest I'd been to a Cooper's Hawk since moving from my home in Keizer, Oregon, where they were regulars.

In the springtime, I had another "Surprised by Joy" day when I decided to photograph vacant nest holes in trees.  What a treat to have various homeowners not only home, but surprisingly conspicuous (see blog for the story).
Hairy Woodpecker

More recently, my Wandering Tattler experience was another great example - yes, I was out looking for it, but wow did it surprise me (you have to read the blog)!  I'm not going to recount my whole year -- these memories are just examples of many wonderful moments of living my mantra. 

I love being able to wander around the coast, discovering new spaces, revisiting old favorites - it is nearly an "embarrassment of riches" that God has given -- I am truly blessed.  Two days ago, I was driving slowly up a narrow, winding road toward Mount Hebo Lake, a new place that I've been wanting to try.  I noticed a small lump in a dead shrub -- a second glance told me it was an owl. An OWL?  It couldn't have been more than 6 inches tall.  Could it be a PYGMY OWL?  Do we have them here?

Northern Pygmy-owl (uncropped)
I snapped photos through my car window -- yes, I stopped in the road (the good news is that no one else was using it)!

So, it really is true -- "Sometimes things come when you stop looking" and even sometimes when you weren't looking at all!


  1. Love this post! So true with birds and everything else it seems... Congrats on the owl- what an awesome sighting!

  2. Dawn, this is all so true! When we go look intently for something, we can miss not only what we are focused on, but all the surprises that make life interesting!