One lesson any observer of the natural world learns quickly is to take nothing for granted.Â Nature loves to defy all expectations. Nobody expects snow in April or earthquakes in New York, but who can really be shocked if these things arise? We cannot predict the movements of the natural world with certainty, but we can watch the mysteries unfold.
True birders, consciously or intuitively, give themselves over to the capricious willfulness of nature. After all, the experts out there, the birders who have added thousands of species to their lists and identified all the local birds with their eyes closed, still visit the same haunts. They scan the flocks of seabirds and waders and warblers intently, because they know that, in the midst of a thousand common birds, there may be one rare bird hitching a ride. Usually, a bunch of egrets is just a bunch of egrets, all just like the ones youâ€™ve seen before. But every once in a while, someone exciting appears. Birders enter every wood and wetland with the promise of seeing something altogether new and unexpected.
Chances are that you do this too.Â All birders, from the enthusiasts who comb the shores after a hurricane looking for migrants blown off course to the backyarders who glance at their feeders anticipating more than sparrows and jays, are looking for it. Theyâ€™re looking for a surprise. Chances are that theyâ€™re going to get it.