While the curved-bill thrasher sat at the top of the juniper this morning, I thought of the Thoreau line “monarch of all I survey.”

At first I was smug. Yeah, but I’ve got coffee, I told myself. Then I rethought my shallow human insights.

The thrasher doesn’t need coffee to help him take in the morning. We have different MOs — maybe he is thinking of bugs, mates and Cooper’s hawks — but he can fly and sing and I can’t. He doesn’t need sunscreen or a hat.

The author David Roybal posted a wonderful picture on Facebook this morning, a photo about what he called the joy of finding and just watching trout swim in the stream below his ancestral Northern New Mexico home.

I tapped the like button on the photo immediately because this has become my favorite kind of fishing, too. Sometime in the early 90s, between the first reservoir and the headwaters way up on the Rio Grande in Colorado, I discovered that I could keep a low profile on the open banks above the river in Brewster Park and watch for cutthroat trout. Trout are my favorite fish to eat but I found that I was having as much fun watching them as casting a line. I got grouchy a long time ago about the greedy aspects of catch-and-release.

And I now I remember that my favorite job ever was helping on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brown trout survey in Hot Creek in the Sierra Nevada. It was kind of rough on the fish — electroshocking to clip fins, weigh and measure before returning them to the stream live as part of testing its health — but god was it gorgeous work.

I liked the experience so much, I saved the Thermos I used on the job in 1972, reminding me of sunny mornings and the gleaming fish from the clear stream. I no longer used it but took it along for old times’ sake to a trail crew reunion in the Sierra in 2012, where I dropped it, shattering the glass inside.

Before the thrasher this morning, I had three visits in several days from what I’m guessing is the same young bull snake. Each time we check each other out, he’s looked like he’s grinning. A friend over the ridge has been asking me to bring her a snake because she has a mouse problem. But I’m not giving this guy up. He looks like he knows what he’s doing here and he’s been making me smile.

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