As soon as I wake up, I hear them singing. Lots of them. Filling the soft morning with song.
I can tell the rain has stopped. They are celebrating.
Birds are always doing amazing things.
How do they fly so fast and so high and then land on a small twig in one second?
How do they balance on a flower without hurting themselves or the flower?
Do they know that most berry plants in the world were planted by their grandparents?
There would be a lot more bugs in the world if they were not a top food item for many birds. (According to the Audubon society, one swallow can swallow 60 bugs -while flying!- in an hour or 850 a day. My grandmother said that I ate like a bird, which meant very little. She obviously had not heard of this Audubon report.)
Yesterday, I was standing on a bridge after a rain and saw a bird dive right into the water and stay under quite a while, I imagine looking for food. Then it leaped up into the sky and over the high waterfall, flying parallel to the water, upstream, keeping about a foot above the water the whole time. This is a great and rare talent.
We tend to think birds eat berries and peck fruits in our gardens, so we put up netting and scarecrows and swinging pie tins. Imagine how many fewer quality fruits there would be if the birds were not keeping the insects at bay. The birds find them and eat the insects that are going after the flowers and fruit buds and young fruits. They are our partners in life and work.
Birds come to our gardens and orchards and perennial beds. They are comfortable here and find food and shelter and feel safe. It feels like home. Every growing, flowering thing we plant or nurture becomes bird habitat.
There was some undeveloped land in the neighborhood where I grew up that was called “a bird sanctuary.” I remember thinking this was a very good idea. All of us with a little land can make a place on which birds will feel at home. Letting them be. Not messing with the land too much. Asking ourselves, “What would a bird like?” How can we help the golden crowned kinglet and white breasted nuthatch feel at home? Where will the goldfinch and the blue headed vireo, the hermit thrush and the ruffed grouse like to spend their nights and days? They like it at our farm right now, so we will work to ensure we don’t change things too much. As we plant more fruit trees and berries and flowering shrubs and encourage the native shrubs also, the word seems to get out that our place is where they want to be.
Stephen Wright the comedian says he was having breakfast and a bird came to his window sill, and he asked it how it was doing.
The bird said, “Summers here, winters there, whoever thought this up, certainly wasn’t a bird!”
Birds are my heroes.
Maybe they are our ancestors, returned,
to be around us and remind us of our path.
To be kind, good people. To grow good, healthy food.
To walk lightly on the earth.
To plant seeds. Not to take too much and to share.
To remember to take things lightly.
To make sure to hear the song of the morning.
David Fried is a writer, grower and bird habitat enthusiast.