Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Birds.

Dear Looking Out the Window,

Oh my!  They are everywhere right now- the Raven is talking to himself in the window of the barn to the North, the finches are moving in a tight flock of chirping, the shrubs send up cyclones of sparrows when I walk out the door.  There are bluebirds in the bath, and towhees, flickers, doves, thrashers, and wrens scuffling on the ground. 

When you begin to watch birds, as a verb, a hobby, to birdwatch; at first it is all leaves and splitseconds.  The feathers are indistinguishable from the foliage, and if you are lucky enough to spot something moving, it’s like a flashbulb and there isn’t time to recognize anything more than that it might have been a bird?  As you put in your hours, though, forms begin to emerge from the leaves- after awhile, you have a sense of bird and non-bird, and gradually, there is enough time to see some things that approach details: brownish, a forked tail, a roundness, a long pointed beak.  Eventually, you can glimpse but a shadow and know that it was an oak titmouse.  You also become attuned to the sounds of the different birds; even the sounds of the wingbeats.  In fact, after a long while at it, you can become quite amazed at the variety of details that you are able to identify.  Things that in the early days you never dreamed you could notice- things like the rising and falling arc that certain birds make in flight.  Or, the sound of some birds’ feet, as they scuffle around in the leaf litter.  It’s all very distinctive, it turns out.

The time of counting for Project Feederwatch is very soon, and I hope this year you will sign on and make a regular appointment with your backyard birds.  The practice of looking is very rewarding.