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Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

GRATITUDE IS EASY after you’ve survived a heart attack. First on my list, of course, is life itself — I’m grateful to still be alive. Tied for first is my partner Ruth Einstein, whose love and fortitude keep me going. Without Ruth, my heart beats with less meaning. Next on the list is you.

As I mentioned in my earlier dispatch about this cardiac adventure, your flood of cards and emails far exceeds my ability to respond. I would reach out to each and every one of you, but, hey, the prospect of hundreds of replies only raises my heart rate. So here instead I’ll offer you three hearts from nature — my expression of gratitude to all of you, whether you’ve written to me or not.

Undertail coverts on a Northern Flicker. / Photo courtesy of Marygrace Barber.

But first, at the risk of omitting some, I’m grateful for you older guys who’ve shared survival stories from your very own heart attacks. Not a club I would have voluntarily joined, but its members are resilient and inspiring. Next, my students at UVM are another powerful source of encouragement for me — and for our collective future on this planet. (I’ll have fresh assignments for you soon.) Colleagues at Eagle Hill Institute, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy, North Branch Nature Center, Northern Woodlands,  and the Vermont Entomological Society, to name a few, have all reached out; what a privilege to be even a small part of their vital work. And other than being here in Vermont this autumn, I would be in no other place than Monhegan Island, from whose wonderful coastal Maine melting pot I have received such kindness; I will miss you all — and your migrating birds — this fall.

Finally, of course, I owe thanks to all of you who’ve been out with me in nature; your kind support reminds me of the vast diversity of life we’ve shared over the past three decades. We have discovered so much together; let’s discover more.

(Read some of this outpouring of support in the comments section of my last blog post. I only wish you could read the notes on all the cards coming to me in the mail here at home.)

So, at long last, here on the blog are three hearts. Above you’ll find a couple of (sideways) aqua-colored hearts on the underside of that Red Admiral. (Thanks to Elinor Osborn for pointing those out to me.) Next are the undertail coverts on a Northern Flicker (courtesy of Marygrace Barber and emailed to me in a nice note from Peg Ackerson). Finally, you’ll find red hearts along the abdomen of a Calico Pennant dragonfly.


Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

  1. Premila says:

    Get well soon Bryan. I am glad you were able to get help on the trail and have a good support system for your recovery.

    I think of you often – as you predicted, I rarely now get off manual mode on my camera after your class. You made a huge difference to my ability to capture the beauty of birds to enjoy and relive when I am not in the woods.

  2. Love the heart rock from the canyon, too, Bryan. Hope you are better day by day. We’re eager to hear from you again on BirdNote!

  3. Ann Curran says:

    Thought of you today when dozens of little orange butterflies visited my garden. Hoping you’ll be better than ever after your recovery.

  4. Judy Welna says:

    The (not going to judge it) European Starling has a heart motif when viewed up close…really quite beautiful. I saw two hearts yesterday, one on a Small Milkweed Bug (black and red, very active now), others on the underwings of a Tiger Moth. Perhaps the V on the Eastern Meadowlark? Best wishes for your continued recovery. The ponds, fields and mountain tops are still there waiting for you.

  5. Kristen Lindquist says:

    Brian Willson got a great shot of a Northern Flicker once, a rear view at such an angle that the red spot on the back of the head looked just like a heart!

  6. Uta says:

    My husband had quadruple bypass surgery five years ago at the age of 79. While in rehab his heart stopped, lucky for him he was at the hospital. He received a pacemaker and is doing fine. So you see it will get better and life goes on. We wish you a speedy recovery but make sure you do all your rehab. Love all the hearts.

  7. Sue Cloutier says:

    🙂 recover with smiles and hugs!

  8. Ron Wiesen says:

    Beautiful, Bryan! Love and Healing to you.

  9. Colleen Kube says:

    Here’s to a continued recovery and hope to see you on the trail, in Monhegan or else where in the future.

  10. Ray Barnes says:

    Your good luck on the day of the attack includes Harry Dauerman MD. He is the best.

  11. Marygrace Barber says:

    There are hearts on the under tail coverts of a Yellow shafted flickers tail. have a great picture from the Appledore Island Migratory banding station form the other day which I could send you as I could not find a way to send it via this comment section.
    Glad you are doing so well. We love your blog.

  12. Marcia says:

    Think of you every day and send good wishes your way. So many amazing memories of past trips when I could actually walk the trails. As I sit here birding from my back deck, I eternally grateful for all you have taught me over the past couple of decades. Get stronger quick!

  13. Chip Darmstadt says:

    Thanks for sharing Bryan! And how about a Rose-breasted Grosbeak?!

  14. Dick Harlow says:

    Oh, maybe hearts not on birds, but there are many hearts for birds!!

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