It’s late at night (oops…early morning) and there are few words left for me to say on this day other than I love to watch birds. I love to photograph birds. This is a mindful, restful hobby and I urge you to give it a try. I am grateful for the hobby of birding, or birdwatching as many say.
Good night and sweet dreams.
Winter is a harsh time of year for me. Since childhood i perceived winter to be a “dead” season. Everything went into hibernation: plants, animals, color, warmth, all of life! I viewed the landscape as barren, transformed into a dull monochromatic palette. Grays and whites depressed me. And I dreaded snow once it came because I knew that I would not see the ground again until spring thaw. But as I’ve aged my perception has definitely shifted. The shift may be due to the fact that I have become more mindful as i’ve mellowed with the years. Now I walk the wooded paths, listen to the crunch of my boots on snow and ice, and watch for the flutter of wings as winter birds take up residence. This past week as I wandered my favorite trails, I noticed that the leafless forrest branches were alive with birds of varied species: titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, dark eyed juncos (see above photo), cardinals, finches, various types of woodpeckers, starlings, and even a hawk. As I stood still and listened, watched, and breathed deeply, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude to have come to this stage and age in life when even in winter I am aware of the vibrancy of life. The birds help. I am grateful for birds in winter.
I usually prefer to post photos of birds in their natural habitat, but this weekend marked the beginning of the annual Feeder Watch program that is run by the Cornel University Lab of Ornithology. That means every week from now til April, I and thousands more people like me throughout the US and Canada will be watching and documenting the numbers and types of birds that come to our back yard feeders each day. Each week we submit our data to the lab where they will interpret the results to use for a variety of purposes. For over twenty five years Cornel University has been following winter migration patterns of birds of every kind. The fun part of their research is that they use ordinary people like myself to gather and submit data on the birds that frequent our yards. Each year those of us who participate and contribute to the research receives a quarterly publication chock full of information on birds, how to identify them, what the research reveals about climate change and irruptions (when brids fly far out of their normal migratory patterns, which usually suggests a shortage in food supply forcing birds to search outside their normal range.) Besides feeling like I am doing a little something to contribute to scientific research, I have found bird watching to be a mindful practice that calms me and helps me focus on the present moment. When watching birds, especially when I’m concentrating on identifying and counting them during my scheduled “watch” sessions, I forget about the cares that weigh me down. Birds are beautiful warblers and hooters and screechers, and if one watches over a period of time–a season–one begins to recognize personalities of individual birds as well as characteristics of the diffierent species. If you are interested in bird watching, or if you have young children who may be interested in birding activities, google Cornel University Lab of Ornithology to find the many programs they offer. Also check out http://www.ebird.com to help identify birds. This is a fun hobby, one I have enjoyed for a few years now. I am grateful for the Cornel University Lab of Ornithology and how their feederwatch program has helped me develop a deeper enjoyment and understanding of birds.