Now that spring has sprung, I have taken my walks outside and into nature. I never walk with headphones on because I love the sounds of the outdoors, especially the birdsong.
I got my interest in birds from my father. He used to point out the different varieties of them living in our neighborhood when I was young. I continue to be fascinated by their movements and their songs and the mystery of these creatures living above me in the trees.
In today’s Chicago Tribune, there was a delightful story about a 15-year-old boy named Henry Griffin, who has become something of an expert on birds and who leads bird-watching expeditions around his Oak Park, Illinois, neighborhood. I usually think of birders as older adults with plenty of time on their hands and the inability to sleep past 5 am. Bird watching requires early morning alertness and immense patience, not the qualities one usually finds in a teenager.
Griffin has a birding website, where he blogs about his travels and bird sightings. A musician, he is attuned to birds’ various song patterns and can identify many by sound even when they are unseen. I would love to be able to do this.
Several years ago, I treated myself to a weekend in Tucson, Arizona, at a health spa. One of the activities offered was a morning bird walk. I got myself up early, bundled up, as the desert is quite chilly in the morning, and headed out with my guide. I was the only guest along for the trip. It was so peaceful being outdoors while most of the world slept. The birds, however, were already awake and active. I particularly remember a scarlet-headed one we saw in a remote area amidst dry grasses and cacti.
I’m not sure why I find birds so fascinating. Is it their curious little raptor faces that are so reminiscent of their dinosaur ancestors? Is it the intricate pattern of their songs, which reminds me of my father whistling while working around the house? Or the grace of flight as they soar, dive and rise again? Maybe it’s the flash of color that rewards a persistent bird watcher and the challenge of finding a rare species in one’s environment.
Tradition has it that a cardinal landing in one’s yard is a sign that a deceased loved one’s spirit is nearby. Couples are referred to as lovebirds, and there are popular expressions such as, “Birds of a feather flock together.” The Wright brothers looked to the flight of birds to help them design the first airplanes.
I saw my first robin today, the harbinger of spring. Is it any wonder I look forward to bird sightings?