The Joy of Birds (not directly about words)

It’s been a good bird week. In our yard alone, in addition to the brown-headed cowbirds, chipping sparrows, house finches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, Northern cardinals (There is the most gorgeous male I’ve ever seen that comes to the backyard feeders.), tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, Eastern bluebirds, American robins, blue jays, mourning doves, and Northern mockingbirds, I’ve seen American goldfinches, a rose-breasted grosbeak (a few times!), ruby-throated hummingbirds, brown thrashers, Carolina wrens, an indigo bunting, a white-crowned sparrow, an Eastern meadowlark off in the field behind the house, and just this morning, a pileated woodpecker held us captive at the window as it went after the stump in the backyard. We didn’t dare move so no photos. It was fascinating watching it chip away and insert its beak and then, not in our sightline, extend its tongue to get at the termites or other insects living in the rotting wood. It angled its head this way and that. It was there a good long time before it lifted its head, sounded its Woody Woodpecker call, and flew off. It was an awe inspiring way to start the morning.

Since Ken is working from home, he’s been creating scads of wonderful nature and conservation education videos. Sometimes I get to help, either with my photos or holding something. Occasionally, I spark an idea for a video. The biggest benefit for me is I get to accompany him as he obtains video footage and photographs. Yesterday, we were recording a skit to help people identify birds. At the end, the bird is identified as a blue grosbeak. We finished recording and within two minutes, I spotted a blue grosbeak just a few yards away. It was as if it heard us talking and came by to lend a hand with the video. As we moved on through fields of wildflowers, I took pictures of butterflies and bumblebees. I saw an Eastern kingbird, another blue grosbeak, a white-crowned sparrow, a red-tailed hawk, and a great blue heron’s tracks in the mud. Also I took photos of barn swallows and ruby-throated hummingbirds at his center. (We aren’t allowed in, but we can observe the outside.)

I’ve heard plenty more birds recently, too. There’s an Eastern phoebe somewhere nearby. A pair of Bobwhites call to us from the field. Ken can whistle and elicit a call from them. We heard a whippoorwill last evening. And of course, there are bird calls I hear that I can’t identify, but I’m working on learning them. Audubon offers online help with that and the guide books describe the various calls although I don’t find that as helpful as actually hearing the call.

I derive so much joy from watching and listening to birds. With so much uncertainty and hardship surrounding us all, I feel fortunate to be able to sit on the front porch swing and take in the beauty of the nature in front of me. I encourage you to find that joy, that beauty in nature, too. As Ken says, “Be outside often.”

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