My favorite chair is one next to the large window overlooking a dozen flower pots and three bird feeders. At least twenty different species visit those feeders, and I love getting to know them and learning their behaviors.
I want to know the names of all my avian visitors. (I think it’s unfair, however, that the birds “change clothes” with the changing seasons, and the purple finch that I recognized in his spring finery isn’t as easily identified in late summer.)
A name, for me, is like a jewelry box into which I put everything that I experience and all that I learn about, for example, the robin. In my Robin jewelry box are such things as
- how “common and ordinary” I think the bird is, but every spring I’m amazed again at how big and bright he is when he’s hoping to attract a mate
- the robin’s songs at twilight, repetitive and full of gratitude
- the corner of my deck railing that becomes his personal porta-potty while he sings
- the stubborn bird that keeps bashing his head against my window, fighting off the “competitor” he sees reflected there. Neither he nor his equally persistent rival will give up the fight until they’re too exhausted to go on.
I have an avian jewelry box labeled Flicker. The gems in that box are
- that huge black bib and the red cheek splotch and all those polka dots!
- learning that flicker’s tongue wraps around his brain to cushion it when he’s pounding on a tree (or a roof) – how wonderful is that?
- the memory of the flicker who cost me $110 a couple of years ago. He wanted the neighborhood ladies to understand his sexiness, and his pounding on my home’s metal roof vents sent reverberations throughout the house exhaust system. Unfortunately, that was before I had a Ficker jewelry box, and I didn’t yet understand flicker habits, so I called in a heating repairman to see what was “wrong” with my propane furnace and my propane fireplace log, and why were they making that odd unpredictable noise!
Yesterday I had a close encounter with a hummingbird. Unbeknownst to me this hummer flew into my garage as I was backing my car out. Several hours later I drove back into the garage and found him, exhausted, fluttering weakly against the inside of the garage window, frantic to get out. Hummingbird feet can only clasp around something narrow; they cannot stand or walk on flat surfaces. So this poor hummer could not rest safely anywhere. I was able to capture him in my hand, a tiny, fragile, depleted, trembling creature. I confess I held him a minute or two longer than I needed to, just to soak up the miraculous fact of his being. Then I carried him out to my front garden and watched him soar up into the birch tree. Wow, did he have a story to tell when he got home! And I had a beautiful new gem to add to my Hummingbird jewelry box.
I hung a bird feeder at the window where Conrad sits in his chair for hours. The bird book is at hand on the window sill, and he reads it and consults it often. It’s great to see him engaged and full of enjoyment.
And a story: when I was a teenager a flicker flew into a friend’s window and broke its neck. So I decided to see what it had been eating, so I went for my dissecting kit and cut it open. Its gullet was chock a block full of ants! And the tongue amazingly long. What a direct look into what we identify today as a “service” of nature!
Of course YOU would have a dissecting kit handy for just such an opportunity!! Thanks for a great story.
I watch birds a lot. I have many feeders right outside my windows.
My son was visiting from Florida and we were enjoying watching the largest woodpecker in the area. I told him “They don’t come to bird feeders.” The next morning he presented me with a photo of just that bird at MY feeder.
Leave it to a SON to prove you wrong! Sounds as if you raised a good kid! CT
Such a lovely blog and I enjoy the jewelry box metaphor. I hadn’t realized the Robin sings a different song in the morning than the evening until recently. Now I notice.
I particularly love the evening song – as if the bird is summarizing his day for the whole world. The morning song is a little less enthusiastic – sort of like me in the morning! CT
This morning I was in the back garden planting dahlias and dianthus in between the giant, take over the garden, purple salvia plants. I so enjoyed the company of a pair of hummingbirds who were on a nectar hunt.
Outside my office window Bill has hung a seed bell which the flicker, hairy woodpecker, wrens, nuthatches, grosbeaks, purple finches and other assorted of the avian domain frequent. It was engrossing to watch mama nuthatch teach her fledglings how to peck at the seeds and she would occasionally feed at tasty morsel to one of her offspring.
The squirrel waits patiently on the ground for anything good stuff that falls off. I do wish he would stop prowling thru my petunias however.
This is beautiful, Wendy. Thanks for the noticing of details, and for sharing them! CT
Thank you for this dip into peace and beauty. The joys of nature are a balm in Gilead for my battered soul. love to your spirit. CB
I’ll distribute your gratitude among the “jewelry boxes” and the critters they honor. Love, CT
When I hear the whippoorwills, I know it’s time to head home.
One of the few things I miss about the Midwest is Whippoorwills. Mourning Doves here in the Pacific Northwest almost fill the gap, but they are SO depressed . . . You’re right, Whippoorwills were sort of the guardians of our childhood days. And weren’t we lucky to be able to roam among the oak forests and the sand dunes freely from breakfast until the Whippoorwills told us it was dinner time? Thanks for the memories. CT
Love this Cynthia! Yesterday we found a fledgling flicker acting strangely, flopping and panting under some trees. I was able to locate a local wild animal rescue non profit who IM’d me steps to keep it warm and safe until I could bring it in for her to rehab. It was such a delightful thing to rescue this fragile creature and find help for it. Flicker is one of my main animal totems, it’s medicine is little awakener of the subconscious. I like to think I gave back to the planet in some small but significant way! love you! fenna
From all of us who can use a “little awakener” from time to time, THANK YOU for your rescue!
Love backatcha. CT
I had just finished trying to read a very long Atlantic article on epigenetics, and my brain was hurting, so I turned to your blog post. Your ‘jewel’ of a post healed me and my brain. Thank you, dear girl.
Wow, I get credit for all that? Wait till I tell my bird friends tomorrow. They’ll be delighted! So glad we could help you get over your epigenetic headache. CT
Now you are in MY territory. I would be long gone if it weren’t for my flighted friends. Sometimes I watch for hours. My Lay-Z boy is perched right by the hummingbird feeder and they are really are putting on a show this year..
Also have a whole murder of crows that are fascinating to watch. I love the way they signal each other with those beautiful (to me at least) caws.
Compared to the human world the birds seem to have it all together, if only they could teach us. Who am I kidding, who would listen?
Oh I think there are plenty of us who will listen, and plenty of us who do. The trick is, taking the time to do so. Thanks for being one of those who listen, Mary. CT
I let out a long Ohhhhhh… as I finished reading this completely delightful, visual gift. If only the birds could know what a difference they make. Thank you, Cynthia. Your blog is indeed a rare treat in these dark times.
I do “visual” with words, you do “visual” with abstract photography. We both try to bring a new angle on beauty to others. Sometimes it feels like so little, but like the folk story of the hummingbird who keeps taking beakfuls of water to douse a forest fire, it’s SOMEthing, and it’s what we are called to do. Happy to be in that tenacious, optimistic sisterhood with you. CT