Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Fine Feathered Friends

I guess my fascination for birds goes back at least two generations.  My Grandmother's yard had multiple bird baths,  and the big expanses of grass attracted robins looking for worms.  I'd sit on her back porch with her and she recognized and pointed out the calls of the various birds who were the regular visitors.  She could even imitate a few.

When my Dad and Lil Bro built a koi pond in his back yard years ago, the moving water and surrounding vegetation attracted a variety of species.  We bought Dad an Audubon guide so he could identify his visitors.

But for years I lived in apartments and didn't really have much chance to observe the birds.  All that changed about 10 years ago when I moved into an apartment with a big outdoor balcony.  Not thinking anything would really happen, I put up a feeder and filled with seeds.  Within a week I was swamped with sparrows and house finches.  That spring I was also invaded by red winged blackbirds, who spent most of their time in nearby wetlands, swaying in the breeze on cattails. 

Crazy as it may sound, when we moved into our house 6 years ago, one of the things I looked forward to the most was being able to thoughtfully build a backyard that had all the key elements to attract birds.  With a feeder, birdbath, birdhouses and trees, the birds began to come.  Each year a wider variety shows up, and it brings me great joy. 

I've rubbed off on the people around me, The Husband doesn't just notice them at home, but while working, and on the golf course.  Then a happy surprise has happened in just the last few weeks.  It started with the tattered copy I have been dragging around for years, of this book.



In the circle where we live there's an abundance of little boys, who I've attempted unsuccessfully to interest in bird watching.  At their age, they'd rather be riding bikes and playing kickball, and I don't blame them.  Who wants to sit still and be quiet if you don't have to?  But I pulled out my tattered field guide a few weeks ago, and little Ben across the street showed an interest.  He'd learned about birds on a field trip his mom took him to, he started to devour the book.  I'd been planning on buying a new one, so I gave him my copy.  Apparently he's turned into quite the "birder".  His mom says he carries the book everywhere he goes, even to a birthday party yesterday...........and he told me very quietly on Friday, "I really love this book".  He couldn't be tempted away from it, even by pleads from the other boys to ride bikes.  Maybe he'll grow out of it, just a phase, but it's fun to see a little one taking pleasure in Nature.

For me, to sit outside, or by a window, field guide and binoculars at the ready is and exercise in calm.  I think your heart rate slows, and your brain has lots of spare energy to think, pray, even write blog posts in your head.  Alone, or shared with someone else, I think most people would be surprised how relaxing and soothing it can be.  Just a flat dish, kept filled with water, will attract birds.  Give it a try!

And this weekend, the red winged blackbirds showed up.............a true sign that spring is really here.

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