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Birds, Books, and Botany

In much of the country, the month began with roaring winter storms, but that wasn’t the case here. Our early March was a lamb, so gentle and solicitous that it brought mint jelly with it and invited Northwesterners to tie on a bib. I accepted the offer and bit into the fair weather with gusto, hitting the trails and boardwalks at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in south Puget Sound. This protected estuary is home to all manner of creatures—my hiking buddies and I glimpsed deer and coyotes hidden in the tall grass—but it’s the birds that are the big draw. Bald eagles, horned owls, great blue herons, and cackling geese compete with smaller, brighter-plumed redwings and wigeons for the attention of amateur gawkers and long-lensed professional photographers. It’s a quietly spectacular show, one that inspires me to do a bit of research before I take it in again. There are many good options available, but for some inexplicable reason I’m drawn to The Crossley ID Guide, so a copy of that will be in my pack on my next excursion.

I’ll also be bearing the knowledge of how fragile and ephemeral such opportunities are. While the Nisqually Refuge is a success story, a thriving stretch of territory reclaimed for nature, there are dwindling numbers of places like it. Sorting through the photos from my walk, I remembered the cautionary account of another wetland that appears in The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy ... continued