I can be a silly goose in so many ways; I can duck the inevitable for great lengths of time, and I’m certainly bird-brained enough to think myself above the flighty affectations and affections of lesser beings. But one good thing I learned pretty much when I was still quite a little hatchling is that letting my spirits take wing with every avian in sight is a fine and healthy practice. When I let my thoughts go to the birds, my well-being begins to soar. Who am I to argue with the brilliance of our feathered friends?
A flock of American Robins passing the area through may not seem especially worthy of note to some people. But if, like me, you remember them as one of the prevalent birds around you when you were growing up, you might notice it with a certain eager delight when several dozen of them descend on your holly tree and Indian Hawthorn hedge all of a sudden and dive on the berries like divas on diamonds. I noticed.
I had been seeing the signs of the early northward migration already, as the grackles that never entirely leave north-central Texas no matter what the season or weather were in ever larger clouds that swept from field to field and perched in growing masses at those points on the trees, hedges, bridges, billboards and power lines where we come to expect them to collect at dusk. It seems to me as though the sheer volume of grackles in the region means some have to migrate, however slightly, just to stay on the fringes of their preferred climate, so when the seasons change I do see even more than the typical congregation of those whistling, flitting avians hanging about on every corner and post.
But the robins, well, they are not so often seen in my own back garden. To be sitting at my desk and hear that familiar liquid warbling is to be transported to when I was climbing the backyard apple trees of my childhood. I looked up on that more recent afternoon from the predictable digital ‘pile’ of email and saw the unexpected flash of russet on a bird’s breast as it streaked by my window, then another and another, and suddenly felt I was in the midst of a happy storm of robins as they dashed and dove, a modest flock perhaps but enough in number to nearly strip the hedge and the little tree before retreating to the woods of the ravine behind for the evening. By next morning, there were fewer that came back for a final pit stop before the whole collective took wing to continue north. They came and went so fast, and moved so quickly and stealthily in the shrubbery in the meantime that I had no moment to grab a camera and commemorate the welcome moment.
The moment will, however, remain, just as the childhood pleasures were revived in the first chirruping calls and those quick glimpses of rosy feathers: robins will stay in my heart as long as the memories remain.
I’m blessed to have ‘peeps’ that do, in fact, peep to me. Sitting at my desk and looking out the window at avian neighbors that stop by to enjoy the all-you-can-peck buffet I keep full just across the patio for our mutual enjoyment. I’ll let them do all of the actual dining, as despite my occasionally nibbling seeds willingly, I don’t often lust after hot pepper infused suet and desiccated mealworms garnishing the grain-and-nut munchies. Shocking, I know.The birds visiting are mostly permanent and part-time residents of our backing greenbelt, and there are regulars and also unique and unexpected friends making occasional appearances to brighten the day here. We see plenty of the common local Bewick’s wrens and chickadees, softly hooting mourning doves and robins and the like, and every one of them is a delight to see and hear. I love even the ones soaring high enough overhead that they never come close enough to snack at our feeders, too: floating vultures, keening hawks, and a majestically flapping heron or two pass by on occasion. The hummingbirds, mostly Black-chinned and Ruby-throated little charmers, buzz around, chittering and bickering over the deep blue blooms of the blue sage, and make my heart flutter almost as ridiculously quickly as theirs.But I think perhaps my shallowness is evident in my taste in birds as much as anywhere. I’m especially taken with those that are showy and exaggerated, all the more if they’re full of mischief and play. The cardinals that spend a great deal of time here, one mated pair in particular, are a bit shy and skittish but when they settle onto the feeders they are a show no matter what, between the female’s magnificent airbrushed-looking feathers with their blush of coral and red, and the male’s brash scarlet suit. And more recently, our patio’s been adopted as the dining place of choice for some mighty splashy jays. The blue jays I grew up with in the Northwest were much more often the darker (though also dramatic and gorgeous) Steller’s jays, but what we see here are the more brightly bold black, white and Blue Jays, and they are a grand entertainment indeed.The jays that visit us are prone to squabbling and banging around in the feeders, eating like winged pigs and strewing seed hulls and detritus all over the place, flying heedlessly around as though they hadn’t a care in the world, and then taking fright at the slightest shadow, suddenly veering up in an explosive launch and leaving the feeder swinging. I can’t often get to my camera in time to freeze their fantastical and pretty foolery for later enjoyment, but I never fail to find them immensely entertaining and wonderful to see. Each moment spent watching them cavort in the sun and shade makes me feel a bit more as though I myself could take wing and burst across the wild blue sky.