I love watching birds, but identifying bird song confounds me. I just can’t do it. I know the wild jungle call of the pileated woodpecker, the soft call of a mourning dove and the cheerful chickadee-dee-dee of the chickadee, but that’s about it. Kurt and I even took a birding class once. The instructor would play a recording of a bird call and say something optimistic like, “Listen closely and you’ll hear the Carolina Wren sing, “germany, germany, germany.” We both heard, “Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.” Or she’d say, “This distinctive call sounds like, ‘Maids, maids, maids, put on your tea, kettle, kettle, kettle’.” “Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.” This happened over and over and over again with a wide, seemingly unending, variety of birds. (Epic failure but we laughed a lot.)
We have an assortment of bird feeders in our cottage garden. Over the years I have wrestled with my conscience about filling them, as we are a household with cats. In the past, I’ve felt that putting out bird food was akin to accessorizing avian murder. It wasn’t bird feeding, it was cat feeding! Every time a small feathered body was left on my doorstep, I cringed and felt stained with guilt. Paint a scarlet letter on my forehead!
This year, the severity of the winter weather and the increasing lethargy of my geriatric cats tempted me to try again. I headed out to the store and pondered over daunting varieties of suet and seed. Choices made, I returned home and filled up the feeders. Then I settled in for a winter of bird watching.
I’ve come to realize that bird watching is addictive. Walking by the window, I see a flick of movement, and I glance out to see what’s happening. Before I know it, I’ve sat down and I’m hooked. It’s like watching fish with a bit more drama. An aquarium is tranquil. Silent. Languid. The fish glide through the water, meandering through streaming fronds of sea plants. There’s that mesmerizing element with bird-watching, too; however, there’s the extra allure of the possibility of an unanticipated arrival. Chickadees are ever-present, brave and cheeky. But, a flash of red and there’s a cardinal. Or perhaps a red bellied woodpecker has come to call or a brilliant yellow finch. One never knows who might appear on the scene. One thing is for certain, if you walk away, you will miss something! So, I sit, sip my coffee, watch and listen. For just one more minute.