Reflections on the Impending End of Summer

Is there a reason for today?
Is there a reason for today?
Do you remember? –Gail Collins/Felix Pappalardi, “World of Pain” (as recorded by Cream)

Bathing Western Gull, Oregon
Bathing Western Gull, Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon. This bird was bathing in big waves as they came rolling in. Canon EOS 7DII/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

As I write this, I have less than a week remaining of my summer vacation. As a teacher, I, of course, look forward to summer every year. The two-and-a-half months off give us a chance to travel, and me a chance to get caught up on house repairs and maintenance. I usually go into summer with a long list of things to accomplish, and I’m lucky if half gets done. The prospect of being able to go out every day photographing plants and animals is exciting. But usually after about a month or so of shooting frequently, the grind of the Texas heat starts to take the edge off the enthusiasm at bit, productivity trails off, and I start to long for the first blue norther of fall.

Briza maxima (greater quaking-grass), Oregon
Briza maxima (greater quaking-grass), Coos Bay, Oregon. This lovely plant is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and north Africa, among other places—but not North America. Canon EOS 7DII/100mm f/2.8L IS. Natural light.

Summers off for students and teachers is a holdover from an agrarian past. Objectively, summer off is obsolete, and I would love to see the school calendar changed. Nine months of instruction is fine (unless you want to expand content, but no one but the most hard-core AP teachers want that), but summer vacation should be at most a month long lest student knowledge and skills tank. The additional time should be distributed throughout the year—longer mini-vacations in fall, winter, and spring. Of course, as a birder it would be wonderful to be able to travel to see major birding hotspots at the proper time of the year. Big Bend for Colima Warblers in May, anyone? Cape May for waterfowl in November? Anyone? Remember: The birds always decide when it’s the right time to be somewhere.

Bank Swallow, Oregon
Bank Swallow, Nesika Beach Bank Swallow Colony, near Gold Beach, Oregon. It takes some effort to see this colony: A half-mile hike through deep sand is required. Canon EOS 7DII/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

During this summer, like every other one, I tried to cram as many new experiences as I could into available time. As the clock runs out, I always ask myself: Was the time as well-used as it could have been? The answer is almost always a resounding no. But as a life-long learner, that failure gives something to aspire to next time.

Snowy Plover, East Beach, Galveston Island, Texas
Male Snowy Plover (Breeding) at Dawn, East Beach, Galveston Island, Texas. Snowy Plovers are “declining” and classified as “near threatened.” We saw them for the first time on Galveston Island this summer. Canon EOS 7DII/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.
Black Terns, East Beach jetty, Galveston Island, Texas
Black Terns (Transitional) at Dawn, near East Beach jetty, Galveston Island, Texas. Black Terns are classified as “vulnerable” and a real treat wherever you find them. Canon EOS 7DII/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

©2016 Christopher R. Cunningham. All rights reserved. No text or images may be duplicated or distributed without permission.