What a Little Birdie Told Me That I Knew All the Time



I envy birders. Those  stalwart stouthearted sorts  who scour  the highways and byways, the woods and the wetlands—and just about everywhere else— lurking in the brush, stalking to the limits of  patience just to  catch a glance at some bird.  It’s a fascinating hobby, but, without a doubt, unbelievably challenging too.   I imagine the payoff—when that rare bird is spotted— is as exhilarating  as it gets.   And, in  inverse proportion, as fleeting.

I know there are permanent  ways, like photography,  of seeing and recording  nature, birds included.   And I’m sure the birding community makes use of them.  But my impression is that the real birder is turned on by the thrill of that brief shining instant,  when,  with the naked eye or a  pair of trusty  binoculars, the winged creature is  beheld.

I got to thinking along these avian lines this morning, standing at the kitchen sink, gazing out the window.  When a little yellow bird landed on the neighbor’s fence.    Most of the birds you see around the Oak Lawn area are sparrows, robins, mourning doves, and blackbirds.  There are a few crows and cardinals, on occasion.  Along nearby Stoney Creek, Canadian geese wander around.  And a couple of mallard ducks once and a while  waddle on the   lawn.  A family of mallards for several years has  nested inside a spreading juniper bush on the east side of our house.

A few times I’ve caught sight of a hawk perching on the boughs of  the 30-foot high pine tree next door.  Who knows? It could have been an eagle.

Now if I were a birder, I would have been keeping a close record of these sightings.  The time and place.  A detailed accurate  description.

So I concentrated a few seconds on that yellow bird.  I don’t think it was aware  of my alien eyes. It hopped further down the fence and in a wink of an eye, it flew away.

What I kept in mind was that it was the  size of a sparrow, had  a dull yellow body with dark wings. That’s it. My moment of birding was over almost before it began.  I googled  later and decided it was a goldfinch. Probably a male.

That’s why I envy the birders.  They have virtues that a gardener, in my case, hasn’t  developed to such a degree. I don’t mean only  the power of  concentration, or infinite  patience, or love of nature. . Gardeners should   have these attributes in ample amounts.

No, birders have something else. Something harder to put into exact  words. Something that has to do with appreciating the moment, and letting it go with grace.   Whatever it is , it’s an admirable trait.  And one I’m still working on.




Filed under: hobbies, nature


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  • There seems to be some cardinals around here. Someone sent Skilling a picture of a Baltimore Oriole, but didn't say if it was the prevalent Ripkenus Calvinus variety.

    There are a couple of duck families that look like that that hang out at the retention area, but I don't know where they are now that it has dried up.

  • In reply to jack:

    Ripkenus Calvinus? I've seen that bird many times out on the field.

  • More like a poet--to appreciate the moment, to share it, to let it go with grace...

    The sight of a goldfinch is always surprising!

    And the little brown birds? You have inspired a post from me...

  • WG, it was surprising to me too at 8 in the morning. I saw it again this evening after dinner while in dishwasher mode. It landed close to where it did before. And fled just as fast.

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