Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Serendipity and plain old luck
Lucky moonshot, digiscoped through the Meade Condor with my Nikon Coolpix 4800. Why lucky, you ask? Take a look at my other digiscoped photos; this almost-crystal-clear one has GOT to be luck!
The first definition you'll find on dictionary.com for the word "serendipity" is "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident." I knew that the word usually referred to a pleasant discovery made by accident, but I'd never thought about it as an "aptitude," as though certain people have a knack for making these discoveries. Interesting. Can one really have a gift for making lucky discoveries? Or is it that some people are gifted at looking at normal things and seeing in them something that becomes a great discovery? What was the difference between the guy who saw cockleburrs and thought "velcro!" and the millions of other people who saw them and just thought, "dangit! that's gonna run my hose!"?
Serendipity is rare in my life; normally, I'm just pretty lucky, but it doesn't usually lead to any life-changing discoveries like Velcro or saccharine or any of the other storied examples of serendipity. Lately, however, I've experienced some pretty neat things, and I'll you decide whether they're serendipity or luck.
Earlier today, I was surfing through some new birding blogs when I read an entry about the song of the Eastern towhee, usually rendered as "drink your tea." (I'd love to post the link to this blog/post, but I just can't remember where I read it. Sorry!) At any rate, I was going to an appointment this afternoon at an office that is surrounded by woods. After the appointment, I searched for an indigo bunting that I'd been told about in the woods when, to my amazement, I heard it: "drink-your-teeeeeeea!" I saw a little movement in a low bush and there he was: a male Eastern towhee--a lifer! I didn't have my camera ready, but I saw him there, not five feet away. Wow! If I hadn't read about "drink your tea" this afternoon, there's just no way I'd have been able to ID that song and know to look for that towhee.
Yesterday, I read on the local birding listserv that a blue grosbeak had been seen near my house, in an area I'd never really explored. I drove over there this evening, hoping to see the grosbeak--as though it would be the only bird in the area or something. Anyway, I didn't see the grosbeak, but I DID get lucky. First, I saw an orchard oriole, my second lifer of the day. I sort-of got a photo, though it's ridiculously bad:
He and his mate were intent on hiding in the thick foliage of this tree, but I got some decent looks at them, and I'm confident--orchard oriole!
Next, I saw this bird which I can't ID:
I thought it might be some sort of flycatcher, but they're small. What is this bird? UPDATE--I remembered that he DID make a sound--it sounded like someone clacking away at the keys on a manual typewriter. Help! Tell me it's something cool, though--not a mockingbird or something lame like that....
Then I saw a bird that I've debated with myself about life-listing because I'd only ever gotten one quick-glance-had-to-be-one-of-those sightings last summer: the brown thrasher. After today I can list him with confidence, and I even got photos!
I also saw some cedar waxwings--such beautiful birds, and my nemesis for oh-so-long until I moved up here and saw one a couple of years ago:
So maybe luck's been a lady to me lately, sending me to an area rich with birds that I'd never have discovered had I not gone to see a blue grosbeak. I suppose that living in such a beautiful area that's blessed by so many different species of birds is lucky. Or maybe just living on earth is pure luck in itself.