birds wire moon

Photo: Dave Rudie

As I left the local big box store, walking along the median strip in the parking lot, a sudden gaggle of huge, dark crows bounded from tree to tree. Their flapping, black wings were a startling contrast to the bright green leaves but their presence at all in the midst of that concrete expanse was a surprising invitation to an urban adventure.

I suddenly saw the world and where I stood in it differently.

Where a moment earlier there had been only lists, a pressing schedule and crowds of shopping carts, there was a bright blue sky layered with thin strips of clouds. I could feel the sun on my back and noticed the slight breeze.

The green trees were silent sentinels. The crows, close enough to see the shine on their ebony feathers, twisted in between the limbs. They were wild and reminded me of my own primitive nature.

Since then I’ve been noticing birds more. They are such blessings in a world too busy and overshadowed that our primal selves are overshadowed.

Here in the San Diego area it’s common to see red tailed hawks on the freeway lamp posts. Their piercing vision must be well served by that metal promontory. It’s also not uncommon to see groups of birds huddled along wires. Why? What comfort draws them close together? Just noticing them makes me smile and relax.

As did watching a sudden flock of green parrots careen down my street the other morning. I recognized their squawk first and turned to confirm that was what I’d heard.  These displaced tropical throngs have become more common in urban areas. My guess is that several domestic parrots escaped their cages, found each other and established a way to survive. If you’ve ever seen the 2003 documentary, The Parrots of Telegraph Hill, you’ll know one of the stories. That saga continues and here’s an interesting scientific discussion about what’s going on.

Another small avian mystery was solved for me this week. On the mornings when I’m working on getting some cardio exercise, I’ve spied a small flock of pigeons flying in tight formation. The birds work in a figure 8, twirling wider at the outside and then tightening the pattern on the inside. Where did they come from? Why just in this one place?

This particular morning, I noticed a man watching them on the rise above the houses. I crossed to speak to him and noticed the soft clicking sound that he was making. I waved and asked about the birds.  He told me that they were his doves. His doves, was proudly but shyly spoken. We both stood there watching for a few moments before parting. Now I know.

What does this have to do with travel?

There are moments when we connect with the natural world and our own natures. Too often we think it has to be on a trip to an exotic locale or only when venturing far from home. Why isn’t the wild, the surprising and delicious natural world an acknowledged part of our everyday? What are we missing?

Just a few queries about taking an urban adventure. Your thoughts?

 Elaine J. Masters

Travel writer, co-host of San Diego Travel Massive.

Travel ease books and audio at: