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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.

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Here in a city on the Great Lakes, spring is slow to arrive. Even so, buds are beginning to open revealing colorful blossoms that proclaim Spring is HERE! After a long, cold, seemingly endless winter, signs of life, rebirth and growth are everywhere. The days are getting longer and we have all but forgotten the snow of a few weeks ago. The birds, too, are returning from their winter migrations, always a welcome sight . . . and sound. This is the first American Goldfinch I’ve seen this year, and then only as I scrambled through brush and briar in search of new sites and treasures. Its  bright yellow plumage, a spring-time and early summer phenomenon during the mating season, is but another indication of new life and color emerging from the drabness we see and feel by the end of winter. Yes, I am grateful for spring!

 

I’ve probably expressed gratitude for birds before, but the fact of the matter is I can’t get enough of them. I have become a bona fide bird watcher! Their plumage, their song, their playfulness . . . and at times oneriness, makes bird watching a great way to while away the hours. I am grateful for the enjoyment that birds bring to my days. 🙂

Warbling birds in the mornings; scampering squirrels on the deck; chattering chipmunks playing chase; giggling children romping in the yard; rustling leaves on a windy day; distant drums of a marching school band at practice; neighbors greeting each other as they cross paths on the sidewalk; whistling tea kettle sounding the alert that the water is ready! There are so many sounds of life, sounds we take for granted. Sounds of love, sounds of warning, sounds of alarm, sounds of joy, sounds of busyness. Sounds! I’ve wanted to express gratitude for sounds in this medium for some time but was never quite sure how to do so. As I age, sounds gradually become more muted. During my last check up the doctor commented on the scar tissue growing on my ear drums which explains why sounds are not so clear to me anymore. Frustrating. Since that visit I find myself paying closer attention to the sounds around me, sounds I have taken for granted. I do not think that this will lead to the total loss of hearing, but it may lead to the use of hearing aids sometime down the line. So today I listen. I soak in the sounds around me. I pay attention to how different birds communicate with their various types of chirping and warbling. I listen to the wind in the trees, and the staccato sound of squirrels quarreling with each other. The sound of traffic on a nearby street offers rhythmic background music for the sounds emanating from my back yard. I soak up every sound my grandchildren make and relish the music they create in my heart. I watch and listen to the sparrows lined up on the fence as they chatter with each other every morning. I am perpetually grateful for sounds.

Not too many years ago, I thought that bird watching was definitely one of the most boring hobbies EVER! How could someone sit for hours watching birds do their thing? As I’ve grown older however, I’ve discovered that birds are quite entertaining. I am learning to recognize each warble and match the sound to its species, which I am also learning to recognize. My makeshift feeder and baths are a magnet to birds of every size and color. And there is definitely a pecking order for which bird rules our deck at any given time. I have become one of those who can spend hours watching their antics. With a camera always close at hand, I have captured some of their character and beauty. Even Richard has been charmed by “my” birds since we have settled in our new place. I know they will bring joy and color to our yard for as long as we are here. I am grateful for the joy of birdwatching! 🙂

With books and papers spread across the dining room table as I studied and typed away, I chanced a glance out my diningroom door to see a Robin perched on the deck fencing. My yard is not lush like the courtyard we left when we moved here, but it certainly has possibilities. Seeing this bird reminded me that although the sights and sounds have changed somewhat, there is beauty here, too. I am one who always (or almost always) keeps my camera at the ready, and this moment was no exception. The camera was within arms reach so I slowly picked it up, focused and while still sitting at the table amidst all the books, I took one shot. This was the only photo I got. Startled by the click of the shutter, the bird immediately took flight. But I did go out and spread a few seeds across the beam in hopes of attracting other birds to this spot. A proper bird feeder will go in soon. This morning (5:00am) as I type this, darkness still envelops us, but the birds are chirping up a storm. Ahhh…  I love the sights and sounds in our new home! I am grateful for discovering the life outside my door!

Chaos rules now. How can one move from a small apartment to a full size house with a full basement and roomy bedrooms and still not find places for “things.” Ah, the joys of moving. On a bittersweet note, there are features of our previous abode that I miss, like the glorious view out on a luscious courtyard where flowers bloomed, birds warbled, and squirrels scampered to and fro. I shot a few last photos of flowers in bloom just outside the window before we left that sweet apartment for the last time. But already I’ve heard birds in nearby trees, and seen squirrels at play in our yard at our new home. We have beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas just outside our living room window, and the back yard is waiting to be landscaped (by me) and planted. We now have a “proper” dining room where we hope to feed many guests in the years ahead, and even a “guest room” for those who choose to stay a while. Our neighbors appear to be friendly, and we are already making new acquaintances. Once we create order here (which may take a while; coursework is as demanding as ever!), I have no doubt that we will find all sorts of sweet and wonderful, awe-inspiring surprises. We always do. So today and everyday, I am grateful for our new home!

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Last shots from our apartment window:


I love the music of the birds each morning. I’m an early riser by nature and so are birds. Each day (except in winter) I listen to the birds singing and chirping back and forth as I brew my coffee. Darkness still shrouds the courtyard outside so I can’t see who is ‘talking’ to whom, but that doesn’t matter; their warbling is music to my ears and a wonderful wake-up call. The only exception in my experience was in Nicaragua when roosters’ loud, harsh cock-a-doodling jarred us out of our beds. Birds in my neighborhood however, provide a melodic prelude to each day. I am grateful for the sound of warbling birds as I awaken each morning to  new opportunities and possibilities. 🙂

This little critter has visited me regularly this week. I hung suet out for the birds, and some bird food to attract cardinals out on the window ledge. I was hoping to see a few of our feathered friends up close and personal — and besides, I didn’t want them to starve during the cold weather months. One morning I heard scratching and scraping outside our window but when I opened the blinds there was just this little guy feasting on the banquet I left for the birds! I knocked on the window but he didn’t budge, just raised his head, looked at me, then went back to his eating. At first I was a little miffed, but he is so cute, how can one stay angry with the little fellow (assuming it is a male; it could be female). After our first introduction, he (or she) has come back every day to taste the goodies. Now s/he scratches on my windows, climbs the screens, or sits and waits patiently for my attention. Ours has come to be a delightful relationship, one that even Richard thinks is charming. I really like my little friend, as long as there is glass between us! I marvel at the surprised nature presents to us if we just pay attention and enjoy.  I am grateful when wild ones pay a visit.

 

***For more on this squirrel, check my primary blog, Inspired Vision.

Each morning an hour or two before daybreak, I hear the loud chatter and chirping of birds outside my bedroom window.  Contrary to what you might think, I love being awakened by their warbling and fussing with each other.  Oftentimes I will open the window shades, then crack the window open a bit in order to better hear their sounds as I watch them flit about with the rising sun in the background.  When I am home with Mom and Dad, I sit on their back porch for hours and watch a variety of birds vying for their turn at the bird feeder planted within easy eyesight of those of us who enjoy watching.  This photo was taken when we last made a spontaneous trip to the seashore.  I watch in awe as birds soar overhead with complete abandon and marvel at their grace, beauty and variety of vibrant colors.  I even have an app on my iPod of the different sounds of various birds.  I refer to it when trying to identify a bird that I can hear but not see.  Birds are delightful (and yes, at times obnoxious), beautiful creatures that enhance the natural world.  I am grateful for birds!

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