There are many species of birds around the acreage of our country home. I feed them and provide some housing but some find shelter in unlikely places. Recently at dusk, we spotted an avian form fly down and slip through a crack in the slats of our well-house. “That better not be another starling, “I remarked. Starlings harass the native birds and we often block their nesting sites. We investigated but could not see in the dark recesses. With a gooseneck flashlight made for engine repair, I spied a female nuthatch sitting on her nest looking up at our invasive bright light…
Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?
One of the most famous sketches in the hit show “Portlandia” is the “Put a Bird on It” sketch” where Frank and Carrie, the actors mock the epidemic use of birds on crafty, artsy items that abound on Etsy, other internet commerce sites and of course, Portland hipster stores. (I live an hour from Portland). Not too soon after, T-shirts, cups, and posters started appearing with the meme, “Put a bird on it.”
Beyond being a birder at an early age and loving the uniqueness of birds. I have several feeders about my house and so love watching the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and juncos as they feed. They are my neighbors. They fascinate me as they have with humanity for centuries.
I have been feeding the wild birds around my house for years. In the morning I watch them from my bed as I sip my tea. There is also a feeder hanging in front of my kitchen window giving entertainment as I wash dishes. It’s a meditation of sorts. There are the usual year round residents and then the migratory birds as they make their way North or South in the Spring and Fall. I never tire of watching them.
The Chickadee stated its presence in the branches above
I fill the old mossy wooden feeder that hangs from a tree limb
With an abundance of shiny, black, sunflower seeds
From the bucket hanging on my arm.
The chickadee knows me
I am no stranger to the birds here
The nuthatches, jays, juncos, hummingbirds
We are neighbors, friends of sorts
They go about their business and I to mine
hanging laundry, working in the yard
As I gaze from my window
I delight in their flit and flutter about the feeder
For the 24 years I have lived on my tiny farm in rural Oregon, I have witnessed a gathering of crows in the Eastern sky late in the days of the warmer months. They are always flying South, as with some purpose. Sadly, the woodland hills have been stripped in recent years for vineyards, so the nightly event has gotten smaller. I’ve always wondered where they go and what mischief they might be up to. Finally, I’ve gotten around to write about it.
THE CROWS COME AT SUNSET
From all corners of the sky
Black silhouettes winging together as a noisy flock
On their way to their secret destination
Which I long to know
I imagine they are sent from the spirit world
Spies in the sleek bodies of birds
Black as shiny coal
From beak to tail
They find their nightly roost
In the high branches of leafy trees
An avian barroom full of raucous cawing and flapping of wings
As they share the events of their day
The news comes as far as the cold lands of the Far North
To the dry, pastel arroyos of the Southwest
all the way to the crowded cities of the East
Stories they observed from the world of humans
Comedies born from intelligence gone bad
The jokes and stories are centuries old
recycled with different characters
Told with such squawking hilarity
That feathers loosen in the crows’ wild animations
And float earthward beneath the branches
The party goes on as the sky turns dusky to dark
Stars slowly appear
The birds’ black eyes grow heavy and their voices silent
Then all that can be heard is the sound of crow breathing
Travel for humans, for the most part, is a lifestyle choice. We travel the earth to seek & experience, new destinations that pull on our hearts. But humans aren’t the only travelers on this planet. When it comes down to it, we are totally put to shame by those in the animal world where travel is mandatory. For many, the mysterious urge of migration calls some of the earth’s smallest inhabitants to take journeys unfathomable to our minds.
Consider the Arctic Tern who flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year. Monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles through several generations from regions throughout Canada to one small mountaintop in Mexico to spend the winter. Pacific salmon are born in mountain streams and swim down to the open ocean only to return years later. They travel the hundreds of miles to that very spot where they hatched, to reproduce, & subsequently die. The pull of migration affects tiny hummingbirds, whales, caribou, wildebeest & many other species too numerous to name.
As a trained naturalist, and as I ponder my own motivations for travel, I wonder what it must be like for one of these creatures when one day, they wake up and its time for them to leave? What do they experience when often they must depart the only place they have every known to embark on an unfathomable journey of such physical magnitude?
I wrote this poem thinking of a bird during its first migration & what it might be like….