Shorebirds, fish tell us spring has arrived

Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 3:51pm  |  Updated: May 6 2015 - 3:51pm
By: Nick C. Varney

Everyone seems to have their personal description of when spring officially arrives. Some stick with the “official” March equinox designation that claims it occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic. In the Northern Hemisphere, the equinox is known as the vernal, or spring, equinox, and marks the start of the spring season. 

These strict definition devotees also consider dusting old basement bookcases an electrifying adventure and have been known to put family members to sleep by joining in on dinner conversations.

My friends and I are a bit different when we feel it’s the time of season to drag out a weed whacker capable of denuding an old growth forest and prep the lawnmower.

Willie is a wannabee birder and goes a slightly bit psycho when the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival rolls around. 

W didn’t get into all things avian until he woke up on his birthday 12 years ago and realized that he was not only eligible for an AARP membership but was still wearing his high school letterman’s jacket.

It was then that Willie realized he was one of those guys who always seemed to be 10 laps down when it comes to participating in life’s grand race.

He had to admit that most of his predicaments had been his fault from skipping so much school that he couldn’t read a welcome mat without a tutor, to trying to make a buck while exerting just enough effort to perform slightly better than someone in a medically induced coma. He had never taken anything in life seriously and thought it was about time to do something he couldn’t do time for.

As luck would have it, his friend Mort invited him along that spring on a bird spotting safari during the festival. 

The change in Willie after their expedition was phenomenal. 

The next time I ran into him he came roaring up in what he claimed to be a pickup and leaped out looking like maniacal characterization of Ted Nugent. 

He was sporting full camo attire, an Aussie-styled hat, had armored coated field glasses strapped around his neck and was back packing a spotting scope that could pick out individual hairs on a mountain goat five miles away.

The ol’ boy was also brandishing a thick paperback book full of bird pictures and declared to be astounded that so many of the featured critters actually passed through our area on their northern migrations.

Willie had finally found an aspiration in life that meant something to him.

His transition over the years into becoming a reasonably proficient birder has been amazing, especially when his initial outing had him claiming sightings of exceptionally rare species such as spotted thighmasters, horned geeks, a sumbitcher, two black oyster suckers and a herd of sandpiddlers.

He can now proudly point out northern shovelers, tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous-winged gulls and common murres along with various visiting raptors and sundry other airborne beasties some of which I still think he makes up. 

It really doesn’t matter, because when migrating fowl start to arrive its officially springtime for Willie and he’s ecstatic to be able to pursue a hobby that gives him a sense of pride. Which is nice, because now his neighbors don’t have to worry about keeping a close count on their smaller livestock.

As for Turk and I, our spring officially kicks off when the fish pens are set up  in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and that occurred last Thursday. 

Yes, we realize that the cranes are back along with robins singing their renditions of The Phantom of the Opera outside bedroom widows at four o’clock in the morning. But even with the swans and eagles already on their nests, moose calves swinging low in their mothers’ tummies and businesses unshuttering on the Homer Spit, it just doesn’t seem to be seriously springtime until the Fish and Game throws out the anchors on those floating cages and officially recognizes that it’s time for them to plant and for us to get ready to harvest.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t busy knocking rust off old lures and preparing a salmon killer batch of a new secret bait that was recommended to him by a Canadian piscatorian guide visiting from Vancouver Island, B. C.

Spotted

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