This Pandemic is for the Birds

cc photo by J. Delp

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

Langston Hughes

Birds have been helping me navigate the pandemic.

As a kid, I was always intrigued with birds. I think my fascination began through a shared interest with my Great Grandmother Donley who regularly fed the birds in her Beloit, Kansas yard. I think I remember that the little nuthatch was one of her favorites. Mine too.

In March, me and my dog Kosmo began spending a lot of time on the back patio and we decided we could use some company. Walter, our cat, also needed something to watch during the day. So, I started with a hummingbird feeder (pictured). It was visited by hummingbirds, of course, but also house finches, and a very persistent (and loud) Gila Woodpecker.

After noticing some small birds in a backyard bed of wildflowers, I added several thistle seed feeds and Lesser Goldfinches arrived in droves. Seed cake and suet feeders appealed to the woodpecker, Abert’s Towhee, the Curved-Bill Thrush, and a flock of Rosy-Cheeked Lovebirds who assume the role of backyard bird feeder bullies. As you might imagine, these parrots are not native to Arizona (you can read more about them here). The other day I counted eight different species of birds in our backyard within about thirty minutes.

The birds have been a good reminder that in spite of the challenges and struggles of this year, there are things we can count on being normal. They don’t take away pain, eliminate the virus, or even alleviate sorry. They do serve as a healthy distraction. Nature has a way of doing that, and in the process, acting as a healing salve.

The birds don’t understand there is a pandemic going on. They don’t care about our politics, or our disagreements. They are too busy being birds. Being normal.

And, for me, their vibrant colors, frenetic pace, and pursuit of life represent hope that things will get better. They are a reminder to hold fast to dreams.

Be hopeful. Be safe.

As an aside, if you have any interest in learning more about birds, I have been using the free Merlin Bird ID app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is awesome.

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