Birdland

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There are birds nesting all over my front porch. They seem to like the ledges under the porch roof for building their homes of twigs and other plant matter. And while I complain that the nests themselves are unsightly, it’s so much fun to peek out the window and see baby robins lifting their little heads up looking for mama bird.

Today my world is a bevy of bird activity. I hear bird calls of all kinds, some sweet and lilting like a song from Snow White, others like miniature drills rat-a-tatting away. And there is a group of brown birds with soft red heads flitting back and forth from the rooftop to one of the nests on the porch. It looks as though the young ones are having flying lessons.

Birds seem like nervous creatures, always jerking their heads here and there, looking out for predators, no doubt, such as the giant hawk that soared over the house earlier today. Yet they themselves are predators, hopping across lawns searching for worms and grubs to feed themselves and their hungry young.

In the quiet of the morning, it’s peaceful to hear the birdsong and think of the busy avian life going on in our trees and on our front porch. I’ve always wondered what the nightingale sounds like, trilling away in the dark while other wildlife sleeps. On the famous Beatles’ song “Blackbird,” you can hear the melodic lilt of a real blackbird  singing.

In years to come when I have more time on my hands, I plan to take up bird watching. I’ll buy binoculars and maybe even one of those jaunty hats to wear out in the forest. Perhaps I’ll join a birding club so that I can learn more about the fascinating world of birds.

All in good time. First I need to have an empty nest of my own.

For the Birds

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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?