The Case of the Missing Binoculars

2005 November 11
by David J. Ringer

THE METROPLEX, TEXAS — This story doesn’t really have much to do with binoculars — but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

This morning was refreshingly cool. I heard a burst of rapid chatter out my window — kinglet! I looked up and saw it perched at the tip of a branch, wings flitting. Jh-jh. And it was gone.

That’s yard bird number 14, for those keeping track with me. An accipiter fluttered over very high early yesterday morning, but I didn’t identify it. I picked up Mourning Dove and House Sparrow last week, and I saw a Brown Creeper Sunday.

After finishing business in Duncanville and Dallas, I decided I’d head for the Drying Beds. I wished I’d left my binoculars in the car, but I went back to the apartment to get them. I found my camera, but the binocs weren’t in their usual spot. “They were in the car,” I exclaimed in disgust, and headed out the door.

Back at the car, I checked the trunk. No binocs. Argh.

Then I remembered carrying them back into the apartment … but where were they now? I crossed the parking lot again and hurried back up two flights of stairs. There they were, in the closet, on top of my sweaters. Go figure.

TARRANT CO., TEXAS — When I finally got to the Drying Beds gate, I was distressed to see it closed. I kept driving; there is another entrance just to the west. It too was closed. A back-roads detour netted me one kestrel and two red-tails. I decided to make one more pass at the gate, remembering the couple’s words last time: “Sometimes they close it but don’t lock it. So don’t panic.”

But I might as well have panicked, for the gate was securely fastened with a chain and two padlocks. There was a number to call, but I don’t have a cell phone.



It was a keen disappointment, but I wasn’t ready to give up and go home. I wasn’t excited about returning to River Legacy, but without my trusty atlas, I didn’t have any other options.

The park was much less crowded, which was an encouraging sign. Maybe I would get a sapsucker out of the deal. I took the road that I hadn’t taken Sunday, but it turned out to be the other side of a loop, not a trail into new and exciting territory.

It was by now late afternoon, and small birds were fairly active in the woods. The first bird I saw was a drab warbler with two wing bars, obscure streaking on the breast, and not much else but a case of hyperactivity. I decided it must have been a Pine Warbler, and then I caught a glimpse of a second bird that looked like an orange-crowned.

I didn’t walk far, sitting instead to look out over the river. I heard White-throated Sparrows calling, and I finally saw one, then two, feeding in giant ragweed at the water’s edge.


Autumn leaves glowed in the setting sun.

Juncos called too, and I saw a few as they moved through the trees and the understory.

Four Wood Ducks (I presume) flew by quickly, and turtles swam in the river, surfacing to breathe and then disappearing completely in the murky green water.

As the sun dropped, vultures began to stir. They took off from the river’s north shore and flapped wheezing overhead, heading who knows where.

Gray clouds filled the sky and drifted very slowly north. Fallen leaves floated very slowly atop the opaque water. The vultures continued their evacuation, and great jets rent the skies high above. Cardinals and sparrows cried in high-pitched voices — distraught or joyful, how would I know?

Some branches were bare, and black against the gray. Yellowing leaves still clung to others, watching their kindred float downriver.


Dismal sky.

The world suddenly seemed very old, very tired, and almost empty. It was sad, but not in an unpleasant way. Ends come. Peace comes. Nothing is better, but at least I can’t feel it here.

This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends…

And this is the peace that the world can give.

Related posts:

  1. Learning what I’m missing
  2. The case of the Lesser Black-billed Loon
  3. Merlins on wires and gulls in the sky
  4. Hardship and reward
  5. Sora galora

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