I got fat. This became exceedingly apparent to me when, a couple of weeks ago, I went out for my first run since September. But it’s worse than that, because before my run in September, my last run was in May, and so on. Clearly, long distance running is not my favorite thing in the world. But that fateful January day, as I lain in bed late into the morning, under my warm covers of cotton and lipids (possibly even trilayers), I read the SWSA blog for the first time. I realized that it was a New Year and time to do something useful, and that these sweaty folk seemed pretty jolly about the misfortune of running. I immediately got up and dressed for a winter birding run. My sister (and her remarkably loud, swishing raincoat) joined me for a jog around the snow-laden trails of Saginaw Forest, a research property of the University of Michigan with a rich assortment of conifers atypical of southeast Michigan. It’s one of those places that are really beautiful to walk (or run, as it were) through but consistently have an irksome lack of birds. While birding there intently in previous visits, I’ve often turned up species totals under five, with individual totals under a dozen (and not just in winter).
But today was different; the fat kid was out for a run, God bless him, and all had come to see! First, two Hairy Woodpeckers called in unison, chanting “Go! Rosy! Go! Rosy!” Kinglets and creepers joined in, titmice and chickadees, and so on. A pair of strong-billed woodcreepers smashed their bills together like claves; then a cardinal chipped, holding up a wing ensconced in a huge, foam “number one” hand with my name on it. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that different from previous visits, but I was running, and that made every bird better! Soon enough I was sweating, and my strides were probably equal to those of a sanderling; needless to say, I felt pretty legit. After twenty minutes and an untold number of miles, I ended with a new PR: 10 species.