As a child I thought the mourning dove was the "morning" dove. It was up at dawn. Its slow song—coo-OO-oo-oo-oo—seemed not mournful, but welcoming. These days I awaken to see a flock of mourning doves perched in a huge oak. They fly down to peck the ground for the sunflower seeds and cracked corn we put out. By late afternoon they're still lingering, their subtle colors growing more resplendent in the sweet light that photographers love. When day is done, gone the sun, these most common of birds, so often overlooked, return to their perch without mourning the end of anything.
Come December 31, with snow (usually) as a backdrop here in Maine, mourning doves are among the loveliest of birds. For us observers of the natural world, they quietly ring the year out with a reminder to look for the uncommon within the common, the extraordinary in the ordinary. And to look forward to the morning.
Best wishes to all of you for 2012 from Craig, Pamelia and The Naturalist's Notebook.