On becoming a fan of birds

Photo by Ed Myers
One of the greatest things about our new place is our view of the outdoors. There's a sliding glass door looking out to the backyard and a window next to the dining room table looking to the side yard. The front screen door and living room window look out onto more trees and shrubbery. Because of these great views, we've (by default) become bird watchers!

In our last place, we got to know our Scrub Jays, American Crows, Mourning Doves and briefly, a family of Cooper's Hawks, but they weren't usually easy to see without going outside. Now we've got a ringside seat for all the bird entertainment we could want.

It all started with the little brown birds on the grass. Most of the birds on our property were familiar to me, but these chubby brown hopping birds were not, and I found myself with a strong desire to know what they were. So I bought a bird book and found out that they were California Towhees. I love knowing stuff!

Now that I had the bird book, I started to observe more unfamiliar birds. Isn't that the way it always goes? You buy a red car and then suddenly you notice every red car on the road?

Then my neighbor loaned me her book on crows, called Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness(affiliate link). As I read about the crows (who are not as visible here as they were at our last place), I had a revelation that I had never given birds credit for being as interesting as they really are!

Now that I had the bird book, I started to figure out the names of our visitors. I recognized the sparrows, but I didn't know that they were called White-crowned Sparrows. Or that their occasional partners in snacking were called Golden-crowned Sparrows.

Then there was the Anna's Hummingbird. We had hung a hummingbird feeder above the deck, and enjoyed watching the birds come to feed. But we didn't notice -- until we noticed -- that the same hummingbird would come back every day, perching between feedings on a branch about twelve feet from the dining room window. She would sit, preen, scratch and poop, then make another trip to the feeder. We never would have detected the tiny bird in the bush had we not been actively following her flights.

In order to see her better, we pulled the binoculars out from under the car seat and put them on the dining room table. And when yet another two unidentified birds appeared in the yard, I bought another bird book.

Here's the list of birds we've met so far:

California Towhee
Anna's Hummingbird
Scrub Jay
Downy Woodpecker
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Black Phoebe

We're starting to recognize where they hang out, where they eat, where they perch, who they hide from and what times of day to expect them. Our neighbor has a bird bath, and it's fun to watch them drink and bathe. We plan to add different kinds of bird feeders and increase the bird-attracting plants in the yard.

Neither of us has ever had an interest in birds. It's amazing what happens when you just open your eyes and ears and start paying attention.