Birds have a way of attracting one’s attention in our daily lives, whether we’re inside the home or outside running, hiking, or kayaking. I’ve learned a lot from birds—more from them than they from me! Their survival skills are amazing. They stay attuned to their surroundings. They are good at what they do, they persevere, work from dawn to dusk seven days a week, and never complain. Instead, they go about life happily chirping tunes to support each other and warn of danger.
Birds are curious, trusting and appreciative. We gained the trust of a pair of phoebes after they built a nest over the entrance door of our porch. This was not an ideal nesting place for them or for us. The constant banging of the door as people went in or out was annoying to them, and we were less than thrilled about the messiness to avoid with our feet. We left the nest until after the babies flew out of the nest. Then we built a tiny triangle shelf high in a corner of the porch.
Soon after, the same pair of phoebes greeted us and built another nest, but this time they used our shelf. They repair the nest each spring and sometimes this nest has several hatchings of babies in one year. They greet us and chirp a greeting from the nest as we go in or out.
Hummingbirds are trustful, curious little helicopters who swirl in one place, watching what we are doing, before tiring and going on about their feeding. They know our voices and act differently toward visitors in our home. Baltimore orioles can spot a newly-placed orange the first day in spring when it is hung on a tree. They hoped we would remember that they were coming back.
Water fowl are interesting to observe and get to know. Wild ducks and Canadian geese return to the same nesting site each spring. They have good memories and remember that a seed or two may be under the bird feeders. Creatures of habit, they like to walk the same paths again and again.
Crows are intelligent birds, whether people like them or not for their clever ways. They have a guard on duty while several others are eating. They stay in a small group to support and protect each other.
While hiking, I enjoy birds. Listening and identifying birds keeps the mind occupied when putting in a long hike. Spotting birds in surprising places is something to remember.
My most unusual bird-sighting was in Russia, when I saw an eagle sitting on top of Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. It was over 18,000’ in thin air in a complete white out. The clouds opened for a few seconds and there sat the eagle, only a couple of feet from me, eating a rabbit. It did not fly and was not at all interested or afraid of the four humans, two Iranians, my Russian guide, and me. The storm showed no signs of stopping, so we stayed only a few minutes before leaving behind the eagle at that unusually high elevation.
One sunny afternoon on the Appalachian Trail, I was greeted by two Canadian jays. They flew from one rock to another, waiting for me to feed them. I stopped, put down my pack, found a trail bar, and broke off little pieces—and lo and behold, they ate from my hand.
Birds are nature’s wonder and without them the world would not be as pleasant and full of joy.
(posted July 26, 2016)