Nature Connection: Finding The Time To Get outdoors

By: Mary Richmond

Mary Richmond Illustration

One of the positive things that came from staying home more over the last few years was that many people got outdoors to experience nature in ways they may not have before. Even those that were used to being outside, whether walking, hiking, sailing, biking, kayaking, or even just sitting in the backyard or on the beach daydreaming got to increase the time they spent doing so. Many began new outdoor hobbies and activities such as gardening, birdwatching, and even sketching or painting.

And then, life began to get back to so called normal. Offices wanted people to come back in, schools resumed full-time, on-campus schedules, and people began to travel and attend events and meetings once again. In other words, our calendars filled back up and we may once again feel a bit overwhelmed with all we have to or want to do. This often leads to feeling like we have no time for the extras we enjoy.

Like many of you, I have a busy schedule with work, family, artistic, and community commitments. Many days are booked from early in the morning through late afternoon or early evening, leaving less time for just hanging out and watching the world go by, which you may have gathered by now is one of my favorite activities.

Last weekend was the Mass. Audubon Bird-a-thon, however, a day in which birders from all over the state enter a friendly competition to see who can raise the most pledges and who can see the most species of birds to support Mass. Audubon’s programs and conservation efforts. This was my 11th year participating and the sixth year my grandson joined our team. We had an amazing day and were sad to see it end.

Leading up to the event many of us spent a lot of time checking out various areas to see what we could see and hear to get an idea of what birds are around where and when. If you’re a birder, you know some places are teeming with birds while others are quiet, almost devoid of birds, and that this can sometimes change overnight. It’s important to know these things when it literally is going to count or be counted.

This meant that other things in my life got put on the back burner, such as housecleaning, laundry, things like that. I’m lucky that my husband is willing and able to pick up a lot of that slack but he, too, likes to get out and about so we agree to let those things slide when the birding is good.

After the Bird-a-thon I found myself still anxious to get out and see more birds. I went to a place where I was pretty sure I’d find eastern meadowlarks, which we’d missed the day before. It only took a few minutes to find one, and then a half dozen more. I also found grasshopper sparrows, a nesting American kestrel, countless tree and barn swallows, kingbirds arguing over territory and bluebirds, all in about an hour. I also found a half dozen species of butterflies and some lovely field wildflowers.

The following day we drove to Provincetown. When we left the Mid-Cape it was sunny. When we hit Truro the fog started coming in and by the time we hit Provincetown we could barely see the side of the road. Beech Forest was quiet but lovely in the fog and we enjoyed our walk even if we didn’t add a lot of new birds to our sightings. There were the usual suspects, a few notable warblers, some very friendly chickadees and Canada geese with goslings.

As the week wore on I found myself continually drawn outside even when I had a ton of other things to do. I went to a tiny spot in Sandwich where I thought I might spy a spotted sandpiper. As if I’d put in a special request, it was sitting on a submerged log right at the edge of a pond as if waiting for me. While standing and listening to a catbird chorus I heard a hummingbird buzz over my head and when I looked up I saw it land on a branch at the top of a tree nearby. It sat there long enough for me to take a picture and then flew off to buzz another hummingbird. Many yellow warblers sang as I made my way back to my car, and a vocal green frog kept time in the bog across the way.

People often ask how I make time to go outside every day. I guess I make it a priority over housework and mundane tasks. Those things will always be there and can be done once the sun sets. After all, spring only comes around once a year with its plethora of wildflowers and migrating birds.

Go ahead, get outside. Spring is fleeting. Soon summer will be here, and we all know what that means.