A Bird Appreciation

Posted on Jun 9, 2013 | 0 comments

birds singing photo: Singing Robin Singing-robin.jpg

I’m not a birder. That is to say, I don’t know very much about birds, and I can only identify a few varieties when they are on the wing. I don’t go out looking for rare birds.

I never was a stamp collector, either.

But I am a bird appreciator—and a very enthusiastic one.Whenever birds edge their way into my consciousness — and it happens a lot more often than it used to, since I began writing WASHASHORE, with a pair of ospreys at its heart — I appreciate how amazing birds  are. Their lightness, their feathers, their birdsong, their fantastic variety, their ability to fly . . . it almost seems impossible that they could be made of the same raw material we are. Or that they inhabit the same world as we do.

Flight, of course, is the chief thing that sets them apart. Or chief set of things: compare the flitting of the sparrow with the soaring of a hawk, the thrumming propulsion of the hummingbird, or the powerful thrust the osprey uses to lift herself from the water after diving for a fish. From our human perspective, feet planted firmly on the ground, each of these forms of flight is almost incomprehensible.

But the thing about birds that I appreciate the most is their song.

How is it that these small, fragile creatures can transform a breath of air into such a pure, strong, bold bit of melody? Or a sustained trill? A whistle, a swoop, a warble, a full-throated call? What gives them energy to sing and sing, sometimes for hours? What do they feel when they hear each other’s song?

And what is it about the early morning that causes them to greet the day in such force, full choirs of birds reporting from the treetops?

Here in Ohio at this time of year, the bird music starts at 4:30 a.m. and it never fails to remind me of Milo, conducting the day—causing a shaft of pink to escape from the horizon with a crook of his pinkie finger. I don’t get up when the birds begin, but later, at 6:30 or so, I’ll open the front door for a moment to let in their music.

The place I stay on Martha’s Vineyard is deep in the woods, and it is a distinct pleasure to stumble onto the deck in the early morning, coffee in hand, and listen to the daybreak concert while staring up at the pines. It starts my day with peace and wonder—and a dose of humility. Because we humans are fantastic creatures, but birds are magic.


Martha’s Vineyard birds, recorded June 1, 2013 at 7:33 a.m.: http://chirb.it/3dKDJJ

Ohio birds, recorded June 4, 2014 at 5:15 a.m  http://chirb.it/qyKytL

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