Wings over the West
Believe it or not, bird-watching is the hottest hobby in America. Here's Sunset's complete guide to its pleasures
Many years ago, I walked down to our family’s basement anddiscovered a bird book from the 1930s. It was tattered anddog-eared, and its margins bore notes in my mother’s girlish hand.When I asked my mother about it, she explained that it dated fromher childhood in Seattle. She told me it had been an important bookbecause, for her, birding had been no idle hobby.
At age 12, my mother had been stricken with polio. She spentmost of a year confined to bed. That year, the birds my mom couldglimpse from her bedroom window were her link to the larger world.She doesn’t claim that bird-watching sped up the healing process.But daily observations of chickadees and warblers taught hersomething: about patience, persistence, endurance. Those lessonsrallied her ― not only during the painful physical therapythat eventually helped her to walk again but throughout herlife.
Inevitably, perhaps, I became passionate about birding too. Thepastime has taken me all over the West. I’ve followed hummingbirdsto Arizona’s Sabino and Madera Canyons and watched them zip throughthe air, catching sunlight like gemstones. I’ve gazed at thousandsof snow geese in the Sacramento Valley, their cries pealing as theycircled like clouds of confetti.