I just received a text message from a friend who is in Florida visiting family. The message contained a photo of a tri-colored heron in the surf, it was followed by a photo of some ibis. The message sender knows me mainly through the bicycle community here in Portland, but I have ridden bikes with her so she, astute individual that she is, picked up on my habit of watching birds.  She is well aware of my penchant for being distracted from a conversation by the silhouette of some passing bird. But, still she hasn’t spent enough time with me to REALLY know the depth and longevity of my passion for feathered creatures (my love of birds came second in my life only to books but proceeded bicycles). Still, her message is not unusual; my interest in birds is well-known.  I get regular messages from friends and neighbors asking questions about bird I.D., feeding birds, bird-watching, bird houses…just about anything birdy. Evidently I’m the one to think of when you are considering birds, and I do like that birds bring me to mind. Better than being associated with slime mold or naked mole rats, I suppose.

But, I don’t know everything. Some bird identification requires a bit more study and practice – gulls for example. What a frustrating family of birds. They are easy to confuse, often have mixed flocks, change drastically in appearance as they mature and generally require an effort to I.D.  I really don’t know the species of the young bird pictured below. But, perhaps someday I will. And, as of yesterday, I have new hope for just how I might learn.

During the family dinner yesterday my 5-year old nephew,who happened to be wearing an “I love science” t-shirt spelled out using the periodic table (“I” for Iodine, etc.), proclaimed, “I want to be a bird scientist!”

In a gathering of nature nuts, that was certainly well-received news, but for this aunt it was the best possible news. I love that I have a common interest that I can nurture in this young man. But even more, I love thinking that he will indeed become a bird scientist (ornithologist to us grown-ups) and at some time in the future teach me a few new things, like how to I.D. gulls.

So, today I’m thankful for gulls.



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