Working on our Littleton, Colorado, farm this afternoon, I was accompanied by the usual mix of birds. House finches, blue jays and black-capped chickadees invaded the feeders, northern flickers delivered their hysterical calls, common bushtits flitted about the shrubbery, robins stalked the pastures, downy woodpeckers tapped on dead snags and a variety of juncos foraged along the driveway.
Then, as I was dragging snow-broken limbs back to our brush pile, a great blue heron flew low overhead before landing on the peak of a neighbor's roof. While I have encountered these common waders in a wide variety of habitats throughout all seasons (most do not migrate to southern climes) and though they often perch on docks, channel markers and wood duck boxes, I had yet, in my forty years of birding, seen one land on the roof of a house. Tall and slender, the great blue certainly looked out of place on the roof-top, reminding me of European storks that nest on village roofs; after taking in the sights for almost twenty minutes, the heron flew off, presumably headed for a chain of ponds in the neighborhood.
Such an experience illustrates one of the many joys of birding. While novices focus on identifying the many species, veterans take note when birds congregate in unusual numbers, appear during unusual seasons, turn up at unusual locations or, as in this case, demonstrate unusual behavior. Throughout the course of our birding careers, first sightings and these unusual encounters are what we remember most.