I want to tell you something that I don’t tell most people. I love watching birds.
We live in the city, which means we’re surrounded by concrete and cement. City trees are planted down the streets making sure cars don’t mistake the sidewalks for roads.
As city dwellers, we overlook a busy street. Across the street are six trees taller than the electric poles, all with lines crossing this way and that way, slicing up the space into rectangles and triangles.
I used to never pay much attention to birds other than, “Look at those gray and brown flappy things nibbling on crumbs under tables at sidewalk cafes.” But living in the city with limited sounds and sights of nature stirred something in me.
This is why the bird watching started. It was like being in The Wizard of Oz: one day I was in the gray of Kansas and the next I was immersed in the vibrancy of Technicolor. Outfitted with binoculars and bird guides, the flappy things turned yellow, orange, blue, green, purple. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I had no idea. The flappy things all have unique songs and calls – and come April, the mornings are alive with their melodies.
It took weeks from the time we put up our bird feeder until one popped over. And then they all came. How amazing they even found our feeder in the first place, a little dot hanging from an awning on a balcony. I like to imagine that when they’re outside chirping, they’re saying, “Hey, thanks for the snack!” When the feeder is empty, I imagine them saying, “Hey lady, what’s the deal?”
I don’t imagine them to be the most polite of dinner guests. After all, their eating habits have little to recommend them. They make a mess. They hate the corn in the feed mix. They hated the peanuts in the last mix. Our tiny balcony is covered in seeds that occasionally turn into grasses in the cracks of the paving stones.
We invited nature over and it’s messy, colorful and fascinating. Watching the birds makes me forget what’s on social channels or the TV. When I hear the birds throwing seeds around, I turn around and watch the house sparrows and chestnut-backed chickadees peck and hop and call to each other. I only turn away when they leave. Frankly, I get giddy when the hummingbirds show up at the feeder and perch awhile. It’s like we invited magic to our balcony.
I’ve had people make fun of me for my bird watching. A friend once rolled her eyes and declared me old. I’m still at a loss as to how to connect those dots.
Watching the birds is like looking up at the stars: a reminder that we are in the world, of the world, a part of something vast, grand and beautiful. And it’s right on our doorstep. Literally.