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Life Minded

Summer is for the Birds

Rumor has it there are families who enjoy all the same activities. Together. They are a ski family. That family golfs. Her family loves Broadway shows. Those people go to the cabin to mountain bike. His family are all sailors. We are none of these. We are a grab-bag family with varied interests and very strong opinions. What we do all enjoy aside from verbal sparring is animal sightings. This theory has been tested and proven multiple times when we travel. After unnecessary arguing over travel routes, car speeds, where to have dinner, music, politics, who sits where, and air temperature, if someone spots a groundhog out a car window, peace is restored. 

We watched a herd of elk in Colorado. We followed a raft of otters in Alaska. We saw bears in Wyoming and tiny lizards in Utah. But there is plenty to witness here at home. I’ve spent hours this spring and summer watching a family of foxes, turtles, muskrats, deer, beavers, and a variety of birds in the yard. I have become something of a birdwatcher. We have songbirds and woodpeckers who are trying to move into our chimney, eagles and red-tailed hawks, and hummingbirds. My favorite in the cast of characters is the Great Blue Heron. There are two of them this year, and we must have the best frogs in town because they are out there nearly every day feasting like they have been intermittent fasting.

When anyone else here spots the heron, they scream for me, and I run to the window. We try to creep outside without startling them. We watch them together. We are an animal family. Our family text thread is composed nearly entirely of animal photos and trying to coordinate dinner times. 

We’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by wildlife and enjoy the animal entertainment over the years. We even had a moose in our yard once. A woman who lived a few blocks away happened to be walking on our street when we were all excitedly discussing the moose. We told her about it, and she patted my hand and said, “I’m pretty sure what you saw was a deer, sweetie. They are big like that. With antlers. Not a moose.”  Woman. It was moose. Months later, there was a news article about the moose who had taken up residence on the Medina golf course. They speculated he had an altercation over a female with another male and left the pack. He had been seen in a number of local neighborhoods. This moose had a whole interesting backstory. 

I really wanted to find that neighbor and give her a framed photo of the article. But I didn’t. I probably shouldn’t fight with the elderly over moose sightings. There is enough conflict in the world. I saw it with my own eyes, and my family did too, and this is the rich reward for looking around outside. 

A friend suggested perhaps we were “a certain age” now that we spent time watching birds. I beg to differ. I think, just brainstorming here, the people I live with haven’t allowed me to sit still much in twenty years. But they are older and busier now, so I’ve grown into my full amateur birder self. Watching and waiting and witnessing takes time, whether at a youth soccer game or out in the woods.

Summer is a good season for our family. We can be outside or inside, and there is plenty of content to watch. It’s better than Hulu, and we all like the same show. I’m taking a page from the bird playbook and will enjoy spending summer outside cruising around, exploring close to home.  

Jen Fortner is a freelance writer who enjoys asking friends and strangers far too many questions. She spends her spare time sitting in inclement weather watching youth sports, traveling, cooking, and searching for the very best baked goods. She lives in the Southwest Metro with her husband, three children and the most spoiled dog.