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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.

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 know this may sound odd, or that readers may be growing tired of my squirrels, but they have brightened my days this winter. They come to my window and we flirt back and forth. They eat the birdseed, then scamper away. We can now get up close, face to face — with a glass pane to separate us — and chat as if old friends. Who would have thunk! I am grateful for the squirrels.

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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.

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