Third Friday: Jan. 15
By crafting an intriguing 500-word tale, Seabrooke earned the chance to receive a recently published birding book of her choice. No doubt the book will provide good reading fodder.
Please participate in the February contest! Mark Feb. 4 as the deadline for your fictional story about birds, birders or birding.
* The story includes four elements: a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution.
* The story does not anthropomorphize birds.
* You send your wordsmithery to wildbirdATbowtieinc.com before 5 p.m. PST on the first Thursday of the month, and you include your mailing address.
Here, then, is Seabrooke's story:
It was late in the afternoon, the sun already grazing the tops of the trees on the western horizon, its low rays giving the small hummocks of snow a rosy blush while casting blue shadows behind them. It had been a long day of hiking, and Steve was ready to put his feet up over a warm dinner and hot mug of hot chocolate. They had been lucky today with the weather; he had participated in some Christmas Bird Counts in the past where it was minus twenty with blustery snow.
He unlocked his car, setting his notebook and binoculars on the seat as he unwrapped his scarf. He was satisfied with the day. They’d got some good birds along the way, including a handful of crossbills, and a yellowthroat found skulking around in the shrubs of a small marsh, a record late for their county. They had recorded 49 species, which tied his personal high in the 14 years he’d been doing the counts.
He patted down his pockets, looking for his keys. Something was missing. He paused, realization dawning that his GPS was missing. Oh, man. It had been a gift from his wife; he’d been so excited to try it out today. He’d had it when he arrived here; he’d marked the location of a Hermit Thrush with it. He looked back toward the woods with a sigh. Nothing for it but to retrace his steps, he supposed. That would make him late for the count dinner and compilation, but folks would understand.
He bundled up his scarf again and collected his binoculars, then trudged back out along the trail he’d returned by. He watched the ground carefully, looking for anything foreign-looking, or pockets of snow that might suggest something had fallen. He vaguely recalled having pulled out a granola bar at one point. Perhaps he’d dropped it then.
He’d walked back nearly twenty minutes along his trail before he finally spotted it, lying half-buried in the snow where the boot prints suggested he’d paused to look at something. He reached down and picked it up, brushing the snow from the device with a glove. It seemed okay. It was supposed to be waterproof, anyhow.
He looked up as he tucked it in his pocket, and with a shock found himself staring into two very deep, black eyes. The eyes belonged to a fat Barred Owl, which regarded him curiously, sleepily. It was roosting unusually low, but seemed healthy. Steve dared not move, and barely breathed as he looked at the owl and it regarded him. Finally, reluctantly, he tore himself away; the sun was nearly set, and he had a dinner to attend.
He glanced over his shoulder as he left. The owl was watching him go.
“Hoo-hoo hoo hoo-aah,” Steve hooted at the bird.
The bird puffed out its throat feathers. “Hoo-hoo hoo-hoo!” It responded.
Steve smiled, then turned to head back to the car. Number 50, the record-breaker. And what a memorable one!
Photo courtesy of Gerald Botkin/50birds.com