July 5, 2010
I have known for 2 weeks that this was possible but so much has been going on. First my son arrived for his last visit before he goes to war in Afghanistan, then my sister arrived for her 50th birthday. While she was here Gus went off for an interview in the Boston area for a new job. I thought we were going to make it here. We both thought we would retire here. We had made it past the three year mark by which we had usually moved. We thought our job was secure in spite of the downturn in the economy. We never thought this would happen. So, we bought a new refrigerator and installed a hot tub. Two weeks later the company my husband works for laid off 250 people. A few weeks after that the program he worked for downsized. He found himself adrift in an unstable situation. Thus his search was launched to find a new job. And so it was that while Alex was home and my sister was here that Gus was in Boston interviewing for a new job.
Gus returned the same night my son left. My sister left the next morning. Now here I am trying to memorize every moment, every bird, every sunset, every star-filled night. The Sonoran desert toad that pokes its head out in the evening makes me smile. Every hummingbird that comes to my feeder makes me wonder if there will be anyone to fill the feeders for them this fall when the fall migration starts and 5 to 6 species of hummingbirds stop by to feed on their way south.
September into October is the migration of the Lesser Long-nosed bats. The bats know my yard now. They know they can count on food at this location. Will there be anyone here this year to feed the bats? Will anyone else care if they have something to eat?
In an effort to make each moment count and in light of the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico I see how every bird count I do in this area matters. I cannot go to the gulf to count birds, though I would in a heartbeat if I could, but I can count birds here.
Already the bird populations have changed since I moved in here. Just down the slope from my house the building boom has resumed and there have been over 200 houses added to the once open desert where nighthawks and western kingbirds hunted in summer and raptors soared in the winter. This year the birds are finding their hunting ground gone, replaced by homes set cheek to jowl on hot paved roads where rabbits and ground squirrels succumb to overzealous and inattentive drivers. Where I used to hear great-horned owls on a regular basis, I have not heard one in a very long time. The birds are either moving up or down the mountain into more remote hunting grounds, but if the proposed copper mine goes in, all of this could change even more. The bird counts I do now will document how it was, in case it does change. In case our own version of an Oil Spill happens here.
I was quite surprised when I researched my eBird records to discover that I have done relatively few bird counts in the greater Sycamore Canyon area. While I count birds almost every day from my own yard, my bird counts of various areas in Sycamore Canyon have not been consistent. Though I have lived here for over three years I was surprised to see that I had only submitted bird counts for the park area 23 times. In response to this knowledge I have been down to the park counting birds three times in the past week, and I plan on going more. I feel the urgency of collecting as much data as I can before I go. If I go.
For now we wait. We will know in about a week what Our Fate will be. And then, I will really start to say “Good-Bye.”