Bluebird boxes perched on the edges of fence posts became a sort of treasure to spy first as we leapfrogged our way across the Caribou Plateau in a caravan of SUV’s.
At each box, we would roll out of the vehicle and scramble over to the nest-alert to flickers of blue or frantic chirps which might suggest an already occupied nest. If the box appeared vacant we opened it and replaced last year’s accumulation of feathers and straw and wood shavings with fresh shavings, then repaired any part of the box that had degraded: cows sometimes use the protrusions to scratch against; wind and rain cause wear and tear.
Occasionally, the nest would have eggs in it already, in which case we retreated immediately, already searching for the next stop.
There were eleven of us in four vehicles hopping around the fields of the OK ranch outside of Clinton.
For some ridiculous reason, I had not thought about the other amazing opportunities this excursion would offer; helping out the bluebirds by providing them with nest boxes was motivation enough for me.
(Blackbirds and wrens-both introduced species-take over nesting sites from less feisty bluebirds so a bluebird box trail was launched to help grow the bluebird population.).
Once up on the plateau though, sharing the day with other nature lovers, my eyes feasted on the parade of spring rolling past us: first blossoms, intensely green pastures, calves ripping over knolls, curves of hail sweeping against red and blue and yellow mountains, pale turquoise sandpiper eggs huddled against pale turquoise rocks, fluffy goslings in formation between their parents, roan horses with sun in their manes; we were bathed in the richness of it all.
At our last stop, we cleaned out the remaining boxes then congregated on the edge of a ravine overlooking a marshy creek. Cries of “Oh, look'” echoed around as someone discovered yet another wonder.
Though most of us were strangers, we shared a common outlook: a day observing the natural world fills the soul.