Monday, April 18, 2011

My Bird Phase

Last year sometime, I’m not entirely certain how long ago, I entered my “Bird Phase”. And while one can’t be certain I’m thinking that it’s less of a phase and more of a “situation”. Buying expensive feeders, seed, binoculars is sounding more and more reasonable to me. Getting up at crazy times of the morning and traveling crazy distances is sounding more possible – maybe more essential. I was even seduced by a week-long birding camp for educators that’s being offered this summer – but only until I pictured leaving my babies for that long to go look at birds and realized that there would be time for such an activity when I am discharged from active duty motherhood.
I am beginning to feel like either a.) an old woman or b.) a crazy person because I spend a LOT of time reading field guides and staring out my kitchen window trying to master the differences between the LBJ’s (Little Brown Jobs) or squinting to see the details of the shape of a black silhouette flying by. So I am here to sort through and share the reasons that I’m so "enthusiastic” about the bird world.
1. I’m already a naturey kind of person. I’m not a sporty person but I do love to be outside. This is not a new development.
2. Birds are all over the freaking place. In the normal run of my day and WHILE fulfilling my home-bound responsibilities I can be connected to the natural world (even in the winter!). Doing my dishes, weeding the garden, running errands. Birds are always there.
3. They are not all sparrows. Not that there’s anything wrong with a house sparrow – I find them very entertaining actually. But really, there’s a lot more variety if you start to notice what’s going on out there. Just there – right in your yard or on the telephone wires next to the highway.
4. It’s something to “do” when out in nature. I love to take walks or hikes but I find myself hesitating to go out very often because I don’t always (sometimes, but not daily) want the ‘emptiness’ of my mind when I’m just walking. Watching the birds gives my mind just enough occupation to allow me to really engage and enjoy a walk.
5. "In contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a capacity for God because interiorly he is open to the Infinite." Benedict XVI
God’s creation points us to God – it orients our compass in the correct direction. Birds are just one part of that nature but they are so ubiquitous and varied that there’s a lifetime of discovery and engagement there if you are interested in them.

OK, so that clarifies some of it for me. Now on to my very exciting week of observing the birdies.
Fri. (2 ago): Driving the kids to co-op I saw these big dark lumps in the leaf-less tree up the road. They looked like dozens of squirrels nests. As we got closer it became apparent that they were not nests at all but Black Vultures! I pulled over and right in front of us (10 ft?) I counted 34 vultures. They were not (thankfully) eating anything – just roosting – and they were not (thankfully) Turkey Vultures – the red heads give me the heebee-jeebees. 
Wed. I went out alone for the evening and spent the first part at a Nat. Park nearby. I saw some sort of Flicker flying by and then I watched what I think was a Merlin (kestral) or American Kestral eating something up in a tree. VERY cool.
Fri: Driving to co-op had a Turkey Vulture fly out of a quarry and nearly into the side of the van. A little creepy. Saw a Red-Tail Hawk. AND – watched a Cooper’s Hawk carrying something off right in front of us. I jotted down my notes about what I observed and then spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to identify it when I got home. I’m pretty confident that I got it right in the end.
Sun: Spent an hour watching the feeder after a HUGE rain storm the night before. Those birds were Cr – azy. Here’s my list of observations:
Finch Family – dozens of Gold Finches and Pine Siskins fighting it out for the thistle. House Finches dipping in occasionally too.
Sparrow Family – EEEK!!! SO exciting! I saw two new sparrows – AND identified them!!! The White-throated Sparrow and the Chipping Sparrow. The White-throated looked pretty regular (except the white on his head) until you looked through binoculars and then you saw the beauty. Also, the Juncos are still hanging out and all over (they, the Pine Siskins and the White-throated Sparrows are about the migrate to Canada to breed for the summer).
Female Downy Woodpecker is a frequent visitor these days.
Mourning Doves
Tree Swallows (or Purple Martins) flying around in the yard.
And some unidentified brown bird (my best guess is a female Eastern Tohee)
All of this excitement within an hour while I drank my coffee – poured over my bird books – fed the kids breakfast - and reoriented myself towards God. It was a very good morning.
So pardon me if I include so bird-related posts every now and then. I am finally embracing my inner-bird.

Black_Vulture_bird_picture Black Vulture (we live at the far Northern edge of their border)

american kestrelAmerican Kestral

pine siskinPine Siskin

junco Slate-colored Junco


chippingsparrow Chipping Sparrow

cooper Cooper’s Hawk

tree swallow Tree Swallow

white_throated_sparrow_2 White- Throated Sparrow


  1. "They are not all sparrows. Not that there’s anything wrong with a house sparrow – I find them very entertaining actually."

    "Sparrow Family – EEEK!!! SO exciting!" ....

    Thank you, we love you, too!! John is going to LOVE this post- he is trying to convince me we are not too old to start bird-watching together and he is setting up various feeders in the backyard.

    God bless!

  2. As long as you do not begin freezing the dead ones in your garage freezer in order study them I think you are ok.

  3. James-Ha! I have not yet crossed that line - too much history there. Although - had I not encountered that prior to my bird-conversion I wonder if I would think that it was all that weird.
    Kelli - Great to hear from you! You and John should really take up bird-watching. In fact, with your name I think you kind of HAVE to.

  4. Right there with you in the bird fettish land. I am prone these days to walking into a room on the back of the house, getting distracted by activity at the feeder, and forgetting why I am where I am. Not to mention yelling, "don't move!" when the girls walk near the windows and threaten to disturb the activity. So much fun!!!

  5. Isn't it crazy realizing that you ARE becoming your MOTHER? :D How does that feel? (I certainly wouldn't know ;)

  6. Oh really, Reenie? Or should I say Chicken-lover.

  7. I'm not really a bird person, but I have to say, it's pretty awesome to see hawks and herons on a regular basis along with the occasional bald eagle. We also have a horrid bush in our side yard whose redeeming quality is being a Cardinal sanctuary in the winter. Way to embrace your hobby!

  8. LBJ's? We call them LBB's at our house - little brown birds. Just got a metal shepherd's crook looking item from the garden store to hang the preschooler's Earth Day bird feeder project from, and waiting to see if the squirrels or birds get it first.

  9. I realize this post was more than a week ago, but here I am to say "I too am going through a bird thing"!! Seriously, I spend lots of time "spotting" those turkey vultures and various birds of prey out the car window (I try not to do this while driving!) and we just put up a bird feeder a little while ago. We get the gold finches, white-crowned sparrows, white throated sparrows, and lots of LBJ's I haven't quite identified.
    And, I did some serous research to figure out how to get rid of the red-winged blackbirds....which reminds me of my conversation with Nick one day while watching your Mom's bird feeder off the deck--"So, Nick, what do you call those red winged black birds" a deadpan voic: ", I believe."
    Too funny....

    Hope you see this comment....otherwise I am talking to myself. :)