Tag: bird-watching

Thoughts on bird appreciating brought on by How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

Reading How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell over the past few days took me back to both Oakland, CA and to my own backyard. The author lives in Oakland and talks about her time lingering and noticing in the Morcom Rose Garden and Lake Merritt. It is always fun to read a story where the author spends time if you happen to have spent time in the same place.

I was introduced to Lake Merritt one afternoon. Around after dropping off a bridal party to get their hair done for her friend’s wedding. Only, I had no idea how big the lake was. So when I estimated how long it would take to walk around, I fell short and ended up late to retrieve the ladies.

You see a neat lake in life and have time to kill, you park your car and go for a walk to explore the city on foot and enjoy the water birds and water humans you encounter along the way.

Granted, I’ve not lingered among those particular roses, though I’ve spent many a sun-kissed afternoon strolling through Brookside Gardens. While the author thinks of the birds as friends and greets them by species name, I do the same.

While my come to bird moment didn’t take place in full until the global pandemic, I had started identifying birds by sight and call from my own backyard feeders. I liked to know who I was hearing and who came with their entire family to my yard to pick it clean then move on.

While she greets the pelicans and egrets, I have my Mourning Doves. Birds simply too silly to take seriously with their mournful calls and absolute imposter syndrome whenever they manage to flap up to the bird feeder.

I’m up here. I made it this far. What do I do now?

I notice the American Robins picking through the yard for bugs once I’ve cut the grass in warmer weather. The Cardinals trying to impress the Lady Cardinals by soaring through trees as bright red flashes. The gold finches are my current favorites. They come and go so rarely. We had a neighbor with sunflowers and I would see a small flock of the birds in their yard on my daily walks past it. I made a note to plant yellow flowers this year since that’s what they seem to like.

It makes sense. Small yellow bird. Big yellow flower.

I realize by reading this book and take in her thoughts about the attention economy, my thoughts go to my feathered friends. That’s the part of the book that stuck most with me. She called the birds as who and not what. I do the same thing. I greet the birds as friends and the squirrel as on-again-off-again love affairs.

Watching and listening to the birds is peaceful. It’s calm and focusing. When you’ve absorbed in the birds, the rest of the world washes away and there’s only the many calls and flapping wings when once whooshes by your head at top speed.

Dove

I noticed a small nest in the scrub trees and weeds along the fence line. I looked up at it tonight and it looked back. There was a head and neck of a bird in the nest. I think it was a dove, but it was well-hidden and hard to make out. I didn’t want to disturb it any further (as I have been removing some vines and cutting back some branches).
I told the dove I meant it to no harm and I would leave her and her eggs alone. I hope the dove hatches little baby doves. They’re such goofy, plump birds. I love watching them waddle around. They have a charm pigeons will never capture.

Dove standing on concrete path.
Dove, at attention

On Semi-professional Bird Watching

I am a semi-professional bird watcher now. It started when I was working from home in my last job. But now that I am home and nowhere else I’ve been enjoying it (and them) all the more. It started with one feeder. A bright yellow feeder I could load up with seed and let the sparrows take over.

Then I got two suet feeders (once I learned what suet was). That’s when the woodpeckers started showing up. The downy woodpecker and red-bellied woodpecker take turns visiting my yard and are beautiful in their own ways. The red-bellied one is a particular treat as he’s a large bird that likes to linger and eat his fill. He’s also one of a few birds I’ve seen willing to take on a Blue Jay. Did you know Blue Jays are territorial and will fight and kill other birds? I didn’t until I witnessed one take down a little sparrow and found a Cardinal I suspect met the unkind claw of the murder bird.

Downy Woodpecker

The third feeder I got sticks to a window with suction cups. After some trial and error (and moving it to the second story of my house because squirrels will climb the window screens to get to it) it found a home outside my office window. I get daily visits from the downy woodpecker which is a delight. Until a family of European Starlings moved in and decided it was their. I counted as many as 4 birds crammed into the feeder and at least three young birds in the group. They were very boisterous and made their presence felt in my backyard.

I continued to be surprised and delighted by the number and type of birds my little yard is able to attract. The Mourning Doves along with the woodpeckers are my favorites. Though I am convinced all Robins need to have little top hat and monocles. They stand so tall and upright when they patrol the yard for food. They look so proper.

And doves always sound sad. If you hear a sad mournful call, you have doves nearby. I love how they waddle along living their life. Doing their own thing. They, like the Robins are ground feeders and instead of competing for the bird seed at the feeder, wait below it for the sparrows to make a huge mess when they toss it all over the place. Working smarter, not harder is the Dove way.

I can’t talk about bird feeders without mentioning squirrels. They like to crawl up to the feeder and hang from it and feast on the seed there. Recently, they’ve taken to knocking it out of the feeder and piling it up underneath in a little spot where they’ll sit and feast.

Squirrel

I don’t mind the squirrels so much in that they eat the feed. But they scare off all the birds at the feeders. I don’t need to look at squirrels. I can do that any time. I want to look at birds as they come and go. I haven’t gone as far as buying any feeder that claims to outsmart squirrels (because I don’t think any of them will actually work). But I do have a baffle I am going to put on the shepherd’s hook holding the seed feeder and see how it does.