The Birds Are Calling to You
Life can feel overwhelming with so many things vying for attention, right? Partners with plans. Kids with concerns. Bosses, demands, and bills with big red numbers. Not to mention appointments during work hours and work calls during home hours. There are dishes to do, texts to respond to, weeds needing weeding, and laundry to get to. There’s barely any time to connect with loved ones and friends. And when you do, they have loads of new podcast, show, and record recommendations—none of which you’ve got time to download, see, or hear.
It can be exhausting.
Last Thursday I experienced a different kind of day for the first time in a long time. Thanks to this phenomenal new job in University Communications—I started in November after working in the Athletics Department for nearly 20 exciting years—I had the opportunity to join the “Up the Creek with a Pair of Binoculars,” field trip at Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. The trip was part of the Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway—and it was invigorating.
It reminded me of something I had forgotten during the recent weeks of rain: time outside brings me inner peace. While the latest podcast episode of “Heavyweight” or the newest song by the Archers of Loaf always puts a smile on my face, the outdoors is where I find a deeper sense of calm and contentment.
It took a few minutes to get there, physically, and philosophically. Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is part of the Big Chico Creek watershed—the same one that runs through Bidwell Park and the Chico State campus. To get there from Chico, drive east on Highway 32 for 9.7 miles from the Bruce Road/Highway 32 intersection and turn left at the green 3521 sign. Crown Point Road is a mile before the turnoff, and 14 Mile House Road is just beyond it.
Once I pulled in, along with seven of my fellow “birders” (at least for the day), we met guide leaders Jon Aull and Anton Dresler. A few meters up the first trail we explored, I stopped hearing the everyday noise and started hearing them—the birds. Pssst! Pssst! Came the calls of a nearby band of Bushtits. There was a palpable feeling they were telling me it was their turn to get some of my attention.
Soon enough I was scouring the underbrush for Spotted Towhees and craning my neck in search of Cedar Waxwings. All my senses were engaged. I found myself touching rocks and leaves, picking up scents on the wind, and eating bits of an edible plant that Anton said “tasted like a cough drop.” His description was generous. It wasn’t even that good.
I also noticed more about the people around me. (I’m not a big noticer. My partner will tell you, and so will my daughter.) One of my fellow travelers had the coolest bird earrings. Another had sensational socks. Another was quiet and measured, hanging back from the noise, taking it slow. Others, like me, moved quickly, afraid to miss something up ahead.
By the end of the afternoon, we had spotted 22 bird species and learned several interesting facts. Did you know that the Anna’s Hummingbird uses what’s called a display dive (flying straight up into the air and then diving toward the ground at up to 40 miles-per-hour) to attract mates? And while doing so, its outer tailfeathers vibrate like the reed of a clarinet, producing a high-pitched sound that many assume is vocal?
That thought and many others filled my head for the rest of the evening—perhaps the calmest I’ve experienced in a long while. Hopefully that gets your attention and gets you outside.
Try the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve yourself. It’s open from dusk to dawn on most days. Check the website before you go. Or sign up for any of the free ecotherapy events available to students, faculty, and staff. They take place on the Chico State campus, at the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve, and other areas of Butte County.
Most importantly, just get outside and listen. The birds want your attention. They love to be looked at and listened to.
The 22 bird species, and approximate number, witnessed during the “Up the Creek with a Pair of Binoculars” field trip at Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve on January 26, part of the 2023 Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway:
10 California Quail
4 Acorn Woodpeckers
2 Mourning Doves
4 Anna’s Hummingbirds
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Northern Flicker
1 Hutton’s Vireo
5 California Scrub Jays
1 Common Raven
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
15 Western Bluebirds
1 Hermit Thrush
30 American Robins
15 Cedar Waxwings
2 House finches
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
30 Golden-crowned Sparrows
3 California Towhees
8 Spotted Towhees
Upcoming Chico State Ecotherapy Program Events (click the link to sign up).
Please note that these are not birding tours. However, they are a great opportunity to get outside and pay attention to the natural world and the way we interact with it. The campus tours are for students, staff, and faculty, while the other events are open to all.
- Feb. 06 Full Moon Forest Bathing 7 p.m.–9 p.m.
Butte Creek Ecological Preserve, at 1278 Honey Run Rd, Chico, CA 95928
- Feb. 07 Forest Therapy Tuesdays on Campus: Guided Nature Experiences for Wellbeing 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. The flame sculpture between Holt Hall and the creek
- Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day Forest Therapy Walk 5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Cedar Grove Picnic Area and Meadow Chico, CA 95928
- Feb. 18 Community Forest Therapy Walk 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Bille Park, 501 Bille Rd, Paradise, CA 95969
- Feb. 21 Forest Therapy Tuesdays on Campus: Guided Nature Experiences for Wellbeing 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. The flame sculpture between Holt Hall and the creek
- Mar. 07 Forest Therapy Tuesdays on Campus: Guided Nature Experiences for Wellbeing 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. The flame sculpture between Holt Hall and the creek
- Mar. 21 Forest Therapy Tuesdays on Campus: Guided Nature Experiences for Wellbeing 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. The flame sculpture between Holt Hall and the creek