Colorado naturalist/zoologist Mary Taylor Young has just published her latest book, “Bluebird Seasons: Witnessing Climate Change in My Piece of the Wild,” which is a beautifully written call to readers to please pay attention to the environmental changes occurring just outside our front doors — or in the nearby surroundings ...
I have relied on this writer’s “Guide to Colorado Birds” for many years, as the “go-to” way to figure out what I’m seeing in that tree or on that rock over there — as well as her helpful discussions about where/when one might see a Western bluebird and/or how to distinguish it from a mountain bluebird!.
She also has published a really fine book about Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th anniversary and 20 other titles.
“Bluebird Seasons” tells about the piece of land she and her husband, Rick, bought in southern Colorado — and the numerous living creatures and plants that shared it with the Youngs over the years. Rick contributed a group of lovely illustrations and their young daughter Olivia is a frequent companion as they explore their special “piece of the wild.”
A naturalist keeps a journal as well as lists of sightings, is trained to observe the layers of life that happen in a meadow or wooded area and has a gift for taking a reader with her as she walks, looks and listens — during most waking hours. What do those birds eat? How soon are the babies ready to head out on their own? “Get a job, son,” Young imagines an adult bird messaging after delivering a green, juicy grasshopper to his fledgling, which almost immediately is giving the “feed me” signal again. Gentle humor often fits into her observations as she records the day’s happenings.
She had planned to base this book on a nature journal they had kept since buying the land near Trinidad in 1995 in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range in the southern Rocky Mountains. “Our experiences keeping a trail of bluebird nest boxes would be the centerpiece, a way to reveal the joys and spiritual renewal we found in nature from intimately watching one piece of land over many seasons and many years.
“Over time though, my sweet and simple story grew more serious ...”
She continues in her opening comments: “This book is the story of past bluebird seasons. The tale of future seasons waits to be written. The thing about seasons is that their ultimate dynamic is change — birth, growth, death and renewal. There are a variety of possible endings to the story, different paths we as a global village can choose to take. We can keep the seasons turning past loss to renewal.
“In that lies our hope.”
And that gets us to page 12! The reader will clearly want to explore both the journaling about all that occurs on this lovely bit of land and the great variety of wildlife.
“Over the last 25 years, Rick and I began to ask each other: `When did we last see a (fill in the blank?)’” That feeling was strengthened when they sighted a pair of Western tanagers busy in the big pines down by the old campsite. (The Youngs camped on their land until they chose a cabin site and built it with help from friends.) One evening, the Youngs were out for a walk, with Rick carrying a 2-year-old Olivia, when they heard a sound that was new ... a series of short whistles, “round and airy like the notes of a flut e...” The next night, they go out again ...
“I think I know now who calls,” Mary writes. “If only I’m right! We humans may be largely blind in the dark, but this night piper is not and certainly knows we are here. Slowly, setting each foot gently, we step closer. We pause, but there is no rush of wings, no sudden departure of bird from pinon.
“We flick on our flashlights, move the beams slowly to scan the pinon. Perched on a horizontal branch is a wonderful sight — a collection of figures perhaps seven inches tall, each about the size and shape of a small sack of flour. The disk of feathers around each face gives their heads an oversized outline and above their large eyes a smear of white gleams in the light. Saw-whet owl fledglings, about to launch out on the hunt!” Like a set of sextuplets on their first day of preschool. Taylor observes. Can’t help but smile happily at the sketch below this account.
A really appealing new book for this armchair birder.
A charming drawing fills the bottom third of the page. Delightful moment!