I heard a podcast yesterday featuring Rhonda Hampton, race director for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. In it, she spoke of her love of trail running and the “biological gifts” she encounters along the trails. (To go straight to that section of her interview, fast forward to 47:15.)
Her comment made me think of my own daily wildlife count when I’m out running or walking with the dog. This week alone, my wildlife count or list of biological gifts includes a coyote, two deer, at least a dozen turkeys, countless songbirds, a hawk, and, just this morning, a pair of American White Pelicans.
I’m much more accustomed to the Brown Pelican in coastal areas, but I’ve never seen either variety here. I did a double-take. What I thought was an egret stretched out its head and showed off an unmistakable, pelican-shaped beak. I consulted my Sibley’s bird book and discovered that where I live can be winter range for these pelicans, but we are a long way from winter. So I’m not sure what brought this pair to the river.
When I returned to the trails with my camera to capture the pelicans, a slithering motion caught my eye. I spend summers here on a hyper vigilant hunt for rattlesnakes, and so seeing the legs on this lizard truly felt like a biological gift to me.
One of the things I love most about this place is its biological gifts. (Well, I could do without the rattlesnakes and the skunks.) With changing seasons, new wildlife emerges, and it fascinates me. The presence of the pelicans gives me hope that this brutal summer will come to an end—because in addition to rain and clouds and cooler weather, fall brings the big fish, and the big fish bring the big birds, and I already can’t wait.
How about you? What favorite biological gifts do you encounter when you’re out running or walking or hiking?