Birding in Death Valley

It was Elsa’s birthday and Elsa wanted to go birding so … we awoke earlyIMG_0314

breakfastedIMG_0311and searched for birds. IMG_0308There’s not a lot of easy-to-see wildlife in Death Valley. We decided to seek out birds where there was water. There was water at the golf course.

Elsa’s notebook records seeing: Great-tailed Grackle, a Turkey Vulture Roost among the date trees, Common Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, American Robin, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Greater Yellowlegs, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Cassin’s Vireo, American Coot, Cinnamon Teal, Tree Swallow and a Norther Flicker.

None of these were new birds for us but it was a pleasure seeing them anyway. We were seeing old friends in a new place.


I don’t know how birding becomes a spiritual experience. Perhaps it is because it requires quiet and waiting, something that is difficult to do in our modernized society. We are very far removed from those desert fathers who sought God in the distant, empty places of the world. I try to meditate at home and find it a difficult discipline. I don’t even know if I’ve ever truly accomplished a breakthrough. But birding brings me closer to a place where my soul can drink. It carves a path for meditation. IMG_0304

Happy birthday, Elsa. I think it’s awesome this is how you want to spend your birthday. I remember when you’d flip the pages of the bird guide with your little chubby hands while Daddy carried you in the backpack. You identified a Bullock’s Oriole from that perch. Love you, girl!



  1. I never paid much attention to birds until we moved to our current house, where we have quite a variety and have been able to watch hawks hunt. The most special part to me, though, is watching my kids enjoy them. I’m glad that’s how your daughter chose to spend her birthday.


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