Now that the junco list serve has gotten the word, more show up, both on the feeder and rummaging through the plants below. A ruffle of wings, a white flash, they will flee if I open the door. Junco: Bird number One.
The banquet attracts a crasher. The squirrel that did everything short of setting up a ladder to get at the sunflower seeds in the old feeder (including wrecking the feeder) climbs up the variegated pieris. Too low. He hops up the steps, onto the banister from where he leapt and landed impossibly on the narrow perch of the old feeder. Too far now. So up the apple tree he goes and tries for a vertical descent. I’ve put the feeder farther from the lowest branch. Does the squirrel know we’re having a war? The way he stares back at me leads me to believe, he knows. He’s gone now, probably to build a catapult. He’s fighting the long war, whereas I’m a skirmisher.
Bird number two would be a great ally. In the ranger station over the desk is a model, wings outstretched. Notice the white markings on the undersides. Their location is one of the ways you distinguish them from turkey vultures. Noted.
Up the path we go, up into the pinnacles. I sit on a sunny perch, binoculars at hand, and sure enough, a pair swoop overhead. Through the binoculars I see an empty patch of sky. Over there, then over there. In the binocs another vacant patch of blue. My birding skills are somewhat lacking. The birds are gone. I wait. Soon, by the birder’s watch, more glide the canyons of the extinct volcano. Closer. Close enough I don’t need the binocs. I try to convince myself, just like the hikers who said they were just around the corner, they are not turkey vultures. But they are turkey vultures. The sunlight saturating the feathers reveals the white markings at the tips of the feathers. A pair glide in and roost in some grass tucked in a crevasse. I can see the red head with its wattle. Oh well. I’ll rationalize. Maybe lie.
I continue on the trail circling the high peaks, forgoing the bird watch for wildflower appreciation. Much to appreciate. Gold fields, larkspur, wallflower, penstemon, shooting stars…and suddenly overhead a comet shoots past, wings outspread, white on the upper wing and this time, no doubt, a score.
Numero Dos: el condor.