Tis' the season when even grown adults hope for things for Christmas from loved ones. If I had a billion dollars, I'd give all sorts of things to the ones I love whether it was Christmas or not. Over the course of the year, I often see items that make me think "If I had money to throw around I'd get that for (YOU fill in the blank.)" Seemingly inevitably, when Christmas rolls around or that person's birthday, I can't think of a thing for them or can't afford what I want to give to them. I can't quite bring myself to buy just something to fill that void hoping that the thought will count, even if the gift isn't ideal. I hope you all know that I love you anyway and think fond thoughts throughout the year, not only on the quintessential christian holiday. When a reader of this blog requested that I change the banner photograph from the Wild Turkey tail, I thought it was a moment to give a gift right then and there, because I could. I thought the turkey tail was beautiful, but I do listen to you - Santa reads your letters, even if the gift you receive isn't quite what you had in mind. The reader's request was for a photograph of a swan or a Partridge or a Turtle dove which I do not have. If I did, rest assured, I'd give them to you. The last Partridge I photographed was while I was driving. No, I didn't hit it! I had my camera in the passenger's seat as I always do when I saw the bird flush from the edge of the road into the bushes. I was able to get a couple of shots through my grimy windshield before it disappeared, but not anything to write home about, as they say. Partridge and Grouse are all in the same family of Phasianidae or Upland Game Birds. The Dusky Grouse photograph was taken in Aspen, Colorado on October 5th of this year. We have Spruce Grouse and Ruffed Grouse in Maine but not Dusky Grouse. They live in the Rocky Mountains. At seventeen inches tall, they are bigger than the Grouse we have here, but no less chicken-like. Dusky Grouse are more easily spooked than our Grouse, so I think I'm lucky to have gotten photographs of it. It didn't seem too bothered by me and I think I could have had it for lunch if that was my motivation. I could well imagine it braised in red wine with garlic and leeks. Wild rice flavored with ramps from the forest would have made a glorious side. I could almost smell it!
Once, in 1989 before I was a photographer, I saw a Mute Swan in the wild on the New Meadows River in Bath. It was so unusual to see one here, that it was in the daily newspaper. To this day, I regret that I didn't photograph it though I didn't own a camera. I have never photographed a Turtle Dove, nor have I ever seen one. Ringed Turtle-Doves are a European introduction to this country and do not fair well in the wild; I'd know if I saw one. These lovely Mourning doves, which we have in abundance in Maine, are as close as I'm likely get to a Turtle Dove. I hope they'll do. While thinking of the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas and birds, it occurred to me that I have given to you in this blog hens, though they were not three nor French - they were German, and at least four calling birds of various kinds. Then, there have been geese - there were more than six, but they weren't a-laying; they were a-crapping on a golf course. Though the birds I've presented to you over the past year may not have been the birds of my dreams or yours, they have been the birds I've seen and have had to give to you. If I had been Santa reading your letter when you had asked for a watch, I would have given to you a Timex, probably not a Rolex. I hope you like it anyway and know that I love you. It's my version of a Christmas carol.