It’s easy to believe only remote places offer interaction with wild animals or experiences worth writing about; easy to believe, but false.
My most satisfying wildlife-watching experience recently came not in the canyons or meadows of northern Arizona, but in my mother’s backyard in suburban central California. The animal involved was just a common bird, a mourning dove. The dove was just doing a common thing: nesting.
Boring? Not hardly. The nest was in the branches of a Japanese maple, right outside Mom’s dining room window. Watching the dove’s progress was so easy it became part of our daily routine.
Mourning doves have a reputation for strange nest choices. This bird had taken over a tiny platform of sticks left over from last season. The twigs formed an area no larger than her body. Her sleek head and tail lapped over each end.
Looking at her perched on this old, tiny nest, Mom and I had a hard time believing she could successfully hatch eggs there. The bird’s optimism, matched with her precarious position, had us laughing one moment and shaking our heads the next. We worried together about the welfare of the eventual chick.
Soon, we decided to do something about it. But what? We envisioned various structures we could build to catch a falling bird. Our eventual solution involved netting fabric and binder clips. It looked about as flimsy as the nest, but satisfied our desire to help.
The next morning at breakfast we watched the dove reach beneath her body and pull out a piece of shell. Our forks clattered to our plates as we watched the dove fly off the nest and quickly return. I’m happy to report the dove is now brooding a hatched chick. Our “chick-catcher” hasn’t been put to the test—yet.
It was just a dove, nesting outside Mom’s window. But this bird gave us a glimpse into nature, interesting things to talk about, something to worry about together, and then a project to construct. If I were going to write about the experience, those elements (plus the way the experience shaped my visit with Mom) would give me plenty to work with.
Sure, it’s satisfying to hike into the wilderness to find a wild creature in its natural habitat. But there’s also satisfaction to be found in watching wildlife wherever we are—especially with someone we love.