Last weekend was glorious for running. Relatively warm (12 degrees Celsius) and overcast, with sunny breaks, and no wind to speak of. I started out unsure I had the energy to tackle the 14km training run I'd planned to help me prepare for an upcoming race. How wrong I was. The sights and sounds I experienced along the way were more than enough motivation.
Because it was somewhat cool, the park in which I started my run was unusually quiet, and I could almost imagine I was in the country alone. Buds painted tree branches with a soft green blush, but didn't hide the wildlife living in and on them. Every few feet, I caught another glimpse of squirrels and chipmunks scurrying to prepare for the arrival of their new pups. Most glorious of all, though, were the birds.
The first and most impressive fellow I stumbled upon was a pileated woodpecker. I didn't know such clownish characters inhabited my local woods but, apparently, they do. (In fact, another visited my backyard only this afternoon so I know I didn't dream him or her up.) The fellow I stumbled upon was almost as big as a crow. He (or she) was determinedly mining for insects in a fallen log just two feet or so off the path, and seemed completely oblivious to my presence. I didn't have a camera with me, but the bird I saw looked very much like the one pictured above.
Needless to say, I stopped and watched him or her for several minutes before running on. Now that my interest was peaked, I began paying attention and was pleased to note a variety of other birds cavorting in the bushes and trees along the trails. Of course, there were cardinals, chickadees and junkos (regulars at the feeder in our backyard), but I also spotted robins, red-winged blackbirds, a flock of black birds with shiny blue heads that I think were either grackles or a Brewer's blackbirds, a variety of sparrows, and what I'm pretty sure was a female downy woodpecker. Not a bad bit of birdwatching for a beginner, if I do say so myself.
By the time I arrived home, I was not only pleased with myself for having completed a substantial run, but grateful that running had offered me another incredible opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the world around me.