Spring is Maine’s most difficult season, it holds such promise, yet regularly and indiscriminately withholds that promise and we left to endure yet another cool, gray, damp week as our vitamin D stores grow weaker and weaker. With winter we know what to expect and the messages aren’t mixed; the short days and long nights clearly tell our bodies to bundle up and snuggle in. Spring on the other hand leaves in excited and agitated in equal parts. The evening light confuses me and keeps me from settling down, I flit around the house trying to figure out how to be. The weather teases with glorious expansive sunny days that make your heart burst, followed by dank, overcast, windy wetness. The emotional rollercoaster can be a bit much, and as much as I am grateful for the surprise of a day warm enough for shorts, this spring so far has left me a tad bit irritable. While the plants are responding to this sluggish spring in kind, and are running weeks behind schedule, the birds at least, are still doing their thing, and I find that running in the woods and listening to birds are two things that I can turn to when I start to feel overly damp.
I am not much of a bird watcher per say, though I have aspirations to become one some day. Its mostly an issue of time, right now my life doesn’t accommodate the quiet hours required to find, watch and really know birds, though I take whatever quick and serendipitous glimpses I can get with delight. I am more of a bird hearer, the sounds birds make weave themselves seamlessly into my day to day life. With my window cracked I awake to the spring morning chorus, and my subconscious mind alerts me to new birdsongs before I even know to listen for anything new. Working outside in the garden I am aware that the world is not silent, and a ticker tape runs in the background of my mind, American Robin, Bluejay, Chickadee, Goldfinch, Hermit Thrush. Last spring I started learning the warblers and now where ever I run this time of year I am surrounded by the sounds of familiar friends: Black Throated Green Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Ovenbird, Chestnut Sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow Rumped Warbler. I don’t run with ear buds and an mp3 player for a reason (many reasons actually), I prefer nature’s soundtrack, and this time of year, it is stunning and always changing. Birding by ear and on the fly (or foot) while running through the woods has brought my trail running to an entirely different level of awareness and presence. Not only must I be physically present, sensing my body in space relative to the trees and rocks and ground, and visually present, seeing of the obstacles in my path, birding by ear while on the move keeps yet another part of my brain turned on and focused, an old part of my brain, one that we modern humans don’t use so much anymore, that kept our ancestors alive when humans were more fully embedded in the food chain. Listening and keeping track of the birds while you run can also, like an mp3 player, help you get through a long run, when energy flags, or you are feeling lonely. My friend Charlotte wrote about just such an experience after last year’s Pineland Trail Festival, and her post made me realize that 1. Other people do this too and 2. This would be an awesome hybrid niche group.
So without further ado, let me invite you to join the ultra exclusive Trail Running Auditory Birding on the Go Society. If you are strange enough to like both trail running and birding by ear, consider doing them both at once, and count yourself among my kindred spirits. So far this is a very small group, but it doesn’t have to be. Declare yourself in, that’s all it takes. If we get enough interest, we’ll make T shirts, really.