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The Atlantic puffin, also known as the common puffin. Freeuse photo

Exploring Nature: Reflections

Sunday, December 8, 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, I enjoy reflecting on some of my very favorite bird sightings over the years. Over a long, long span of watching birds, probably five avian species stand out from the rest.

First, I had sought after the Andean cock-of-the-rock bird for several years before finally seeing one in Peru. With its feathered head crest resembling a Roman helmet, and its brilliant red-orange coloring, this is one lovely specimen.

Next best sighting was a resplendent quetzal, a bird with a magnificent long tail and brilliant iridescent green sheen that is a real show-stopper. I saw my first one in Panama.

Third, was a seabird seen off the coast of Maine, an Atlantic puffin. This bird looks like it was designed by Walt Disney and is endearingly cute.

Fourth, was my first up-close look at a whooping crane at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge here in Texas. We were on a boat and the captain did a great job of nosing his vessel up close to shore where we could see the fivefoot tall, snow-white whoopers up close and personal.

Finally, seeing a flock of lesser flamingoes on a trip to Botswana in Africa was a definite thrill. I don’t know another bird colored bright pink with little hints of red — what a beauty. The elephants, lions and hippos on that trip were also nice.

The bird I would most like to see? Topping the list is probably any of the 42 species of birds-of-paradise, with the “Magnificent” variety leading the way. However, the chances of me going to Indonesia or New Guinea, where these birds hang out, are remote.

Until I see these sought-after rarities, I’ll have to be content with the Carolina chickadees and black-crested titmice that show up regularly at my backyard feeder. They may not be spectacular, but they are certainly dependable.

San Marcos Record

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