There has been an increasing interest among people, I hear, who want to know more about the wild birds. More bird feeders are being placed where they can be seen from a window in the house. There are many people who would love to learn the names of all the beautiful birds they see, but their lives are too busy. I find it quite sad when our days have become so crowded that we cannot find time for ourselves, and for the things our hearts ask us to do. How long before we finally ask ourselves the most important question: Is this really how I want to live my precious life?
In the natural world, the simplest things are the most important part of the cycle of life. We often overlook how simple things may teach us something that could change our lives. Learning the names of the wild birds where you live is a simple thing, but it could be one of the most important things you may ever learn. If you allow yourself this time to spend with the birds, they will teach you something that other activities can't, and that's compassion. Compassion for nature will grow into a better appreciation for all life.
I believe, in fact, that learning the common names of the birds is key to learning our own natural place on Earth. It's not at all hard to do. There are only so many kinds of birds where you live, and they are all distinct from each other. Their plumage and songs are all different, from one species to another. Their mannerisms and movements also provide clues to what bird you are looking at. Learning to identify birds is much easier than learning a foreign language or a new computer program, yet it's a step to learning how all the natural world works. The birds will show you how they fit in with other living things around them. Your interest may snowball as you learn more about the wildlife around you, wherever you live. It's a very worthwhile opportunity to give our children in school, as well.
My thoughts have been with the wild birds all week, as the winter weather just keeps bringing more snow and cold. Another foot of snow came last night, and today it's beginning to look like a real white-out. The birds are at the feeders from sun-up to sunset, as it's become harder for them to find food elsewhere. Most of the weed seeds they usually eat are hidden under deep snow. Rapidly disappearing are the dried grapes, wild berries, and Sumac that the birds usually depend on in March and early April.
With snow coming down and snow all around, I watched a beautiful, female Red-tailed hawk glide low from one side of the valley to the other. She was intent in her direction, and I could tell she was on a mission. Holding her wings steady, half-open at her sides, she sliced her way through the falling flakes. Powder flew up around her as she dove into the hillside. A second later she rose, snow flying out around her and a fat field vole in her talons. I was glad to see she wouldn't go hungry tonight, especially with the temperature again dropping below zero.
Earlier this winter I mentioned a beautiful moonlit night with fresh snow on the ground. The word "beautiful" isn't enough to describe the moonlit, snow covered landscape I saw last night. I could clearly see the cottontails as they played in the moonlight, and they were still playing their games when I got up at the first light of day.
Snow shoveling has become a daily chore lately, yet I don't feel discouraged or weary. The shoveling is badly needed exercise, and I'm hoping my body holds up longer than my enthusiasm.
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