Our new best friend

Here are some photos we took of our new best friend. Isn’t he or she adorable? A daily visitor to the backyard bird feeders. Some people would want to keep something beautiful and wild. We don’t. We love it in part because it’s wild. We don’t get to pet it. We don’t have to clean up after it. We do feed it. Some argue that is a form of domestication. Still, we want it to be wild. We do imagine petting it because we love it so much. And when we were filling up the bird feeders twice this past week, it came right up to the feeder less than two feet away from us! And it peeps. And it’s sooo cute.

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If you read this blog regularly, you might remember we set out to see a special bird last weekend. We did not find it. That’s okay. We had so much fun with Older Child looking. Older Child is so chill and into nature that being together is so special. It doesn’t matter if we find the birds we seek or not. Last night, we heard the Great-horned Owl hooting. He is looking for a mate. It’s mating season for that bird.

This bird is beyond mating stage. Older Child will fly the nest this fall! Ahhh! Brace yourselves!!!

When we were Older Child’s age, our friend’s parents were birdwatchers. We said out loud, “If I ever find looking at birds to be exciting when I’m their age, kill me.” Now, we’re their age–and we find looking at birds to be exciting! Ha ha! Irony wins again!

We got into birdwatching because Older Child took an interest at age five or six, and we nurtured Older Child’s interests. We bought Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds, which plays the birds’ calls and has great pictures. Older Child started being able to identify bird calls by sound at age six! To encourage this hobby–and keep Older Child from pursuing television or video games–we would drive to city parks, state parks, and national parks.

Fast forward a dozen years, and Older Child is considering a college major and career in conservation of land and wildlife. Wow. Nurturing a child’s interest can really change the world–theirs, ours, and yours.

The time we spend together as a family–Spouse, Younger Child, Older Child, and Us–in nature is literally the only time we feel truly rich. No phones, no politics, no materialism. Just us and trees or prairies or mountains or snow–and animals, almost always birds.

According to Older Child, who keeps track, yours truly saw more than 280 different bird species in 2018! Wowsers. Older Child saw more than 300! As Older Child says about birding (the cool shorthand for birdwatching): “No matter where you go, you can find birds.” Have ten minutes to whittle away waiting for someone at a restaurant or anywhere in the city? Look–and listen–and you’re likely to find birds there.

It’s hard to identify them at first. And some of them are so common that you can build a repertoire of 10-20 frequently seen birds pretty quickly. The hobby is great for mindfulness: being aware and accepting of what is. Using your senses. Feeling grounded. Connecting with the sun, clouds, wind, trees, grass, snow, rain, sleet, ice, slush, prairie, meadow, marsh, creek, river, pond, lake, ocean, trail, tree, copse, forest, savanna, beach, dune, desert, backyard, garden.

No matter how many birds we see in 2019, whether we can name them all or not, we know we’ll have a great time listening and looking; we will exercise our bodies, senses, and minds; we know we’ll fall in love with old friends and new ones (like our buddy in the photo); and we’ll spend time together as a family.

Our new friend is a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Let us know what birds you see and hear around your neck of the woods–even if you don’t know their names yet.

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