The Secret Spot

High in the mountains or maybe down in the valley, just before the river melts into the sea, is that semi-mythical secret spot of fishermen; the spot where the sun filters through the trees to that deep hole where the big fish live, a place known only to a few and never disclosed to any but closest friends.

Birders have such secret places too.

The places have trees, brush, water, insects; everything birds need to live. Miniature bird habitats, known to hundreds of birds but only a few birders.

These places stay secret not because fishermen and birders are greedy or paranoid. They stay secret because discovery would ruin them. They are small, precious places and crowds would destroy them.

Some years ago we moved to a community and opened the first bird store. We met the local birders, went to Audubon meetings and generally made ourselves useful. We did this, not because it was good business, although it was; we did it because of our shared love of birds and our desire to make new friends.

Eventually, they decided we could be trusted with a treasured piece of local knowledge: They told us about the “Secret Spot.” We were required to never disclose its location and, for our first trip, to take a guide, since we would never find it otherwise.

On private land, with access left open by a kind-hearted owner who expects nothing but that we respect his land, the Secret Spot is small, perhaps only an acre or so. Maybe as big as Walden Pond was when Thoreau stopped by for a visit. Full of brush and a few trees, birds use it as a way-station during migrations and a few live there year around. Along with numerous Doves, Red-winged Blackbirds and Kestrels, it is home or hotel to a wide variety of others. We saw our first Painted Bunting there. Our first Blue Grosbeak. Our first Yellow breasted Chats.

We’ve since left that community and moved on. But business took me there over the weekend and there was time for a short visit, the first in a couple of years, to the Secret Spot. Nothing much was happening. I saw only a few birds and nothing unusual. But it was fine to be there in the early morning light and to have a cup of coffee from the thermos and listen to the awakening day. To remember the friends who, eventually, came to trust us with the knowledge. Life is a fine thing and friends one of the best parts of it. Especially those who know and share their own Secret Spots.

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