Canyon Ranch has always been about wellness, and the mission of the health-and-fitness oriented resort nestled in Lenox, in the heart of the Berkshires, is even more pressing these days, as the pandemic winds down and people come back to their regular routines.
The challenge is finding a healthy rhythm after a year or more of sweatpants, working from home, and raiding the icebox at all hours of the day or night.
So the stress on many of the classes that visitors take, in addition to the yoga, exercise classes, trail hikes, tennis, biking, and other physical activities, has been on managing stress, becoming one’s best self again, and…wait for it…birdwatching.
Canyon Ranch offers its guests small group birdwatching experiences that get folks into nature in a way that they may never previously have imagined. Ed Neumuth, a member of the Canyon Ranch team, is a retired veterinarian with a passion for birdwatching that knows no bounds. He takes small groups out for two and a half hour visits to neighboring fields and forests, in search of, well, whatever might be lurking that day.
Did you know that small birds can fly from New England down to South America and then return the following spring, finding the very fields where they were born?
Did you know that while some birds roll into town whenever they feel like it, the schedules of others can be pinpointed to the very day? And did you know that birds know to fly north or south based on the fact that the days are getting longer or shorter in whatever hemisphere they may find themselves?
Those are the sorts of things you learn when you head out, typically in groups of no more than four, with Neumuth. Experienced birdwatchers use apps to teach themselves the songs and calls (two different things!) of hundreds of different types of birds. They will then head into the field…and listen.
When they recognize the particular sound of a particular bird, they will play it via the app over a portable amplifier, in order to flush the bird out of its hiding place, because it will want to see what’s going on. Once the bird is visible, you can peer at it through the field glasses (Neumuth is particularly fond of the Nikon 8x42s) and observe its intricate, distinct beauty.
On a recent visit to Canyon Ranch, my wife and I boarded Neymuth’s van for a short drive to the neighboring community of Tyringham, where, in Neymuth’s experience, the most birds can be found. The fields and forests of Tyringham offer the birdwatcher a full range of environments in which to track down birds. There are fields, hillsides, and other types of locations that birds favor, giving you the best chance at seeing the widest array of new feathered friends.
Most of us, when we take the time to enter nature, don’t really focus on birdsongs at all, and if we do, we aren’t listening for one bird over another. You have to admire the dedication of the serious birder like Neymuth, who can tell in an instant what birds were on offer, and why.
It’s hardly an exaggeration that going out once with Neymuth as part of the Canyon Ranch experience really changes the way one experiences nature. It is fair to say that even if you don’t get the apps and start memorizing bird calls, your admiration for the outdoor world will radically increase.
Best of all, the early-morning birding expeditions get you back to the Canyon Ranch campus in time for a full day of yoga, working out, swimming, lectures, or just simply hanging around and soaking up the Lenox sunshine.
And here’s one piece of interesting information about birds that you might never have known before: when you see a V of birds in the sky, why is it that one line is always longer than the other?
The answer: because there are more birds on one side than the other side.
Although you don’t have to go to Canyon Ranch to figure that out.