Yesterday morning, as I looked over my to-do list, complete with phone calls to make, I heard a lot of noise outside. It was a different kind of call—bird calls. I looked up through the skylights in the kitchen and saw probably half a dozen birds flying over together.
It dawned on me what I was hearing: not just a few loudmouths but a flock of birds stopping for a meal in our yard before going on their migratory way.
Putting aside my list, I walked into our den, and looked out over our woodsy back yard below, where dozens of birds were landing. They were drawn toward the area where the dead leaves and pine straw are deepest. I saw leaves flying and feathers fluttering as they looked for seeds and other food.
Never staying in one place for long, they moved constantly and randomly. I went outside a couple of times to try to get some photos, but they took off for the neighbors’ yards. A few minutes later, they would return or replacements would arrive.
So I watched from my own perch inside, trying to identify them as they flew by. I used our binoculars, a handy Beginner’s Guide to Birds: Eastern Region, and Google. Here’s what I saw:
Dozens of red-winged blackbirds. (Isn’t there a song about that?)
Scores of American robins.
A few blue jays.
One lone common grackle, who looked anything but common with its glossy, iridescent blue head.
To be honest, I never thought much about birds until the last couple of years when I started paying attention. The winter is so quiet, at least around here. The birds that don’t migrate don’t usually sing or call much. But in the spring, when the males start serenading the females, it’s like the warm-up before a symphony, when everybody plays their own notes. To me hearing the birds sing is part of the celebration of spring.
When migration starts in the fall, birds know when to leave their territories in the north (based on food supply and temperature) and where to go, sometimes travelling hundreds of miles south. Those same factors cue them to go back.
Despite all the energy migration requires and obstacles encountered on the way, many species do it every year. They stop all along the way to eat and rest before they journey on.
And if I hadn’t stopped for a few minutes yesterday to take a look and a listen, I might have missed it.
Have you seen or heard any unexpected beauty lately? Leave a comment below or on Facebook here.
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Photo courtesy of Unsplash.