Birds become welcome hobby during COVID-19

The experience of bird watching was introduced gradually as pandemic restrictions took hold and life slowed down

I never thought I would become one of those people who sat by the window and watched birds coming and going in the tree in the front yard.

The flowering crabapple is perfectly positioned outside the living room window for just such an activity. It’s so perfect, we have set two armchairs next to the window so we can birdwatch in the early morning, afternoon, evening, or anytime we are trying to fill time between housecleaning, doing puzzles, making model airplanes, reading a book or other activities. COVID quarantines have provided us with time to indulge a number of activities that we might never have thought of doing otherwise.

We experienced a gradual introduction to bird watching. We have a couple of bird books that we referenced in the past when we noticed an unusual bird in the tree or on the fence.

We are able to identify crows, magpies, blue jays, and robins without a problem. It was a treat growing up to be the first one to spot a robin in the springtime, or to hear the big voice of the little wren each time he called out.

We took pictures, but never seemed to capture the birds in their best poses. Most times we didn’t have the camera close at hand and in the beginning, were somewhat careless to the fact that any small movement would make the birds fly away.

Last year, because of COVID restrictions, we had plenty of time to slow down, and we now sit by the window and take inventory of the birds in our front yard.

At this time last year, we weren’t ready to relax for a half-hour and wait for the birds to return to the tree in the front yard to feed a few times each day.

As the days and weeks unfolded and we spent more time at home, we began to take notice of the regular visitors in our tree and the new birds that moved in as they migrated through our area. In hindsight, we should have kept a diary of the types of birds and the frequency of their visits, and made comments about their habits and their identifying features. We didn’t realize that this was just the beginning of this activity, and that we might want to look back to compare and to remember the nuances of our journey during the last year. The record may have helped us notice the small changes and the progress we have made through this difficult time.

In hindsight, we have learned a lot about our birds and ourselves.

We have watched the nuthatch scurry about, hopping up and down the trunk and branches of the tree, much like we used to when we were busy with everyday tasks and work, entertainment and leisure activities.

We have watched several species of sparrows eating up seeds at the feeders and on the ground, the workhorses of our particular group of birds.

We discussed whether those “little red birds” are polls or finches, looking them up in our bird books, and inquiring at the wildlife centre. I am surprised that I am so interested in this research.

Immediately recognizable are the chickadees with their distinctive call. Their black caps and throats are a contrast to the red of the dried crabapples. Our little spotlight on nature in our front yard has reminded us of the beauty of our surroundings.

We look forward to the next sighting of a couple of blue jays, now that we have put out another feeder filled with shelled peanuts. These birds are always on the go; we are grateful they have stopped by on the journey back to their summer homes.

One morning we saw a flicker at the feeder, the biggest bird we had seen that day, and another day a flock of sharp-tailed grouse paid a visit to this same tree.

We share our sightings with the neighbours as we physically distance in the front yard, a topic that is free from any political stance, or social media backlash.

The repertoire of birds we have shared has grown. Our social interaction, though much smaller, has been sustained, and even though the length and breadth of topics we discuss is limited, we are reminded on a regular basis that we are truly, all in this together.

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