(Note: I am currently traveling for a month in South America, and am on a short blog hiatus while I’m away. I wrote this post before I left and scheduled it to post. While I’m off on a quest to see the amazing animals of the Galapagos and the Amazon, I thought it would be appropriate to share an appreciation of the fantastic birds I get to see every day at home, as a reminder that you don’t have to travel far to find a bit of wonder.)
At some point during the past year, I turned into a bird person.
For almost 29 years, I was largely ambivalent towards birds. I appreciated the hummingbirds at the feeder my parents have out in front of their kitchen window. I always enjoyed listening to the woodpeckers in the pine trees while I relaxed in the hammock in their backyard in Michigan. I liked owls. But for the most part, I didn’t go out of my way to observe birds, or really pay them any mind. If I went to a zoo, I probably would have found the bird exhibitions a bit dull.
Now I’m a person who will stop on the sidewalk in Brooklyn and beam at the little sparrows fluttering about a tree in someone’s front yard.
How did this happen? I’m not quite sure. It happened gradually during my year of travel.
It probably began in Australia. The birds in Australia are incredible. I saw a Kookaburra for the first time in my life. You can’t help feeling amazed at mother nature the first time you see a Kookaburra, just sitting around like it’s a normal looking thing. It’s an extraordinarily cool looking bird. (Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it, but to see one click here.) I saw Magpies and Wedge-tailed Eagles. I saw these incredible Rainbow Lorikeets:
It expanded greatly while I was on the MS Expedition trip to the Arctic. We had a team of naturalists on board who helped us learn about Arctic wildlife, and their enthusiasms for birds was absolutely contagious. I saw a lot of wonderful birds in the Arctic. Also, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to see a Puffin and not fall completely head over heels:
And then I traveled through the US and 16 National Parks with Graham last summer, and it was official: I am a bird person. Here’s a photo from when I stalked a Steller’s Jay at Crater Lake National Park:
When Graham first came to Brooklyn he was impressed by the number of birds we could see from my back windows, which overlook the backyards of the townhouses on the block. He thought we should get some birdseed to put out on our window ledge.
The seed sat out for about a week before the birds found it or were brave enough to approach the window ledge. The first bird who was cheeky enough to visit was a Dark-eyed Junco, a genus of American sparrows. It’s a very cute little bird, and we named it Little Tweets. (We name everything.)
Soon our window ledge was Bird Central Station. Many cute sparrows visited:
After a while, beautiful Cardinals started stopped by too:
Sometimes they are a bit skittish and fly away if we come too close to the kitchen window. Other times they are bolder and will sit there and stare in at us while they eat.
The Doves in the backyard are the equivalent of Seniors in high school. They think they run the show, and they can sometimes be a bit bossy. They are beautiful birds, but sometimes we have to shoo them away so the little birds can eat too.
A repairman came up to work on the plumbing, and was at the kitchen sink when he called out to us “Did you know you have two Doves sitting on your window ledge?!” “Yep.” we answered. “That’s so cool,” he said.
These are the main birds we see on the window ledge, but one early Friday morning I was taking photos of a sparrow, practicing with the new camera lens I got for the South America trip. As I was taking photos of the sparrow, this beautiful Blue Jay landed on the ledge and let me get exactly one shot before he flew off on his journey.
Even when they aren’t at our window ledge, there is plenty of birdwatching to do from the window. The trees and wires are full of birds from sunrise to sunset, chirping away.
So that’s the story of how I become a bird person. I’m now fully obsessed – I think they are beautiful animals, full of delight. I enjoy seeing majestic, uncommon birds, but I also love observing common sparrows and city birds. (Also, I admit I feel a bit like Cinderella with all the cute little birds fluttering around the window ledge.) Hopefully I’ll have some good photos of birds from the Galapagos and Amazon to share with you when I return!
“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marveling at birds and reveling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”
― Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir