Occasionally, I see a gathering of bird watchers at the marsh near my house. A couple of years ago, there was a large gathering over several weeks. I learned a bird rarely seen in these parts had alighted in the marsh here, thus generating the collection of birders. Recently, thereís been a smaller gathering, but I havenít learned yet if some other rare creature has blessed us with its presence.

This got me thinking: Iím not really a bird watcher but I do seem to pay a lot of attention to the little creatures. Think no further than the nesting mourning doves on our second-floor deck. They returned for the third or fourth year this spring and deposited two small eggs. Then, however, an interesting thing happened, one that hasnít happened in the past. They abandoned the nest. I have no idea what happened, but they left the nest one day and never returned. Itís a mystery.

Recently, we took a trip up the Maine coast to go on a Puffin watch cruise. Susan has always wanted to see these little penguin-like black and white creatures with the orange beaks up close, and this cruise seemed to offer the best way to do so. We tried this about 17 years ago, but that cruise was cancelled because of rain. Iím not sure why it took this long to try again but thatís beside the point.

Thereís an island off the mid-coast where puffins nest each spring and the boat goes out and circles the island a few times, while a naturalist narrates what youíre seeing. We saw about eight puffins in the water (their nests are underground, so itís hard to see them on land), including an immature puffin, apparently trying to practice flying. Our best sighting was of a mature bird about 50 feet from the boat directly in front of where Susan and I were standing. It was neat.

There were all sorts of gulls and terns in the area as well, which the captain also described. It was a very informative and enjoyable trip, lasting just over 90 minutes. Unlike our earlier attempt, this day was brightly sunny and warm, and the ocean was calm.

Living near the marsh, we have always enjoyed seeing the graceful and beautiful Great Blue Herons that live there. We love to watch them as they roam the marsh, searching for fish to eat. They are also so majestic in flight, with their great wingspan. Years ago, we were out canoeing on a secluded and tree-lined stream when we came upon a heron. When the bird saw us, it quickly took flight, directly over us, mere feet above our heads. It was awesome.

Speaking of awesome, Iíve also noticed more frequently these days a Bald Eagle flying by. Talk about wingspan! They are incredible birds, powerful and majestic in flight, a beautiful sight to behold. I donít know if Iím seeing them more because there are more of them here or if Iím just better at identifying them when they fly by. Either way, this is a very good turn of events.

I like to look out at the many red winged blackbirds on the marsh when they return in the spring and also notice the ducks as they nest and start their annual families. We saw a mother duck matriculating her family of five small ducklings from one part of the marsh across the street to another the other day. She had assumed a position in the rear of the line as opposed to the front, which I havenít seen before. Maybe this was because the ducklings were so very young mom needed to keep a better eye on them all. Who knows?

In our yard, we have three bird houses, two of which are populated (one is brand new this year and is so far uninhabited) and a nest in a corner of the back wall of our house. That one has been there for several years. So, we have steady stream of small birds flying around all the time and their early morning songs are a wonderful way to wake up.

The cruise I referenced above was notable not just for the Puffin sightings but also for the enthusiasm and excitement that the naturalist had for his subject. It was impossible not to feel that energy and be uplifted by it. When I see the birds that I see here, I can understand that enthusiasm at least in a small way.