Birders are an interesting species. As hikers, we encounter them often on swamp trails and lookouts, throughout this glorious state we call home. Sometimes in sunhat and shades, other times crouched in knee-deep icy sludge, but always quiet and still, they are never far from their two most prized possessions: Binoculars, and their bird diary. We are respectful hikers, true to the adage of “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints,” but next to birders, gosh we are a rowdy bunch. But the more time I spend with Oregon birds, the more I begin to understand.

For these are creatures that deserve a reverence, and a careful consideration as they go about their complicated lives. What seems at first glance to be frivolous is soon revealed as vital to the bird’s health, safety, and ability to attract a suitable mate. Every head tic and every chirp have meaning, and once you unlock the code, their true personalities emerge.

This mid-winter snap of a red-breasted robin is imbued with a superhero-level confidence. He is handsome, and he knows it. Chest puffed up and eyes narrowed against the below-freezing air, he peers at the viewer through the camera lens, as though to challenge any mammal to thrive as he does in such inhospitable weather. He is a true specialist in his ecosystem, and here we stand in jackets and boots, our warm squishy bodies quivering as we stand in the cold, watching for birds.