Thursday, July 16, 2009

Morning Friends


During my morning quiet time, I opened a door to the outdoors. This is a quiet side of the house. Hemlocks, holly, and rhododendron hem in the path that skirts the back yard and leads to the patio. Dense mulching and moisture make it a rich feast for birds. The greenery, low and high, enclose us and create an outdoor room.

Perhaps it was my bright red pajamas. Maybe it was the raw sunflower seeds I nibbled with my cereal and coffee. Did I remind them of someone else who feeds them? The birds were wary but curious. Numerous cardinals kept flitting by the open door and looking in. One pair of them was building a nest. They chip-chip-chiped as they worked. Two sets of towhees were shuffling the mulch. It looked like a dance. Hop, hop, shuffle-shuffle. Hop, hop, shuffle-shuffle. All right in front of the open door. Suddenly, one of them lifted a large, curled leaf in her beak and carried it off. What was it for? Then her mate, a brilliant male, stopped under the hemlock right in front of me, not more than 10 feet away, and looked me in the eye while he sang, "Drink your teeeeee . . . drink your teeeeee."

Just beyond the walk, a bobwhite reminded me of his name: "bob WHITE! . . . bob WHITE!" A tufted titmouse flipped his head feathers up and down and gazed on me earnestly. He chattered "Peter, peter, peter, peter" from the hemlock branches above. Across the lawn, the robins stuck out their tangerine chests and chanted their morning drills. They seemed pleased with the moist, slow breeze and the mackerel sky overhead. A storm is coming, later. For now, this small piece of earth is calm and damp and sweet.

There we were -- earth and green and clouds, and my new friends. I was comforted and soothed like a small child who has been out of sorts and doesn't know it until she climbs into her mother's lap. Some time later, smiling, I shut the door gently on Bob, Peter, Robin, and Tee, and went upstairs to the rest of my life and into the day which was waiting for me.

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Below is a list of birds which I have seen in our yard in North Carolina. How many of these have you seen? Which birds can you find in your yard this summer?

American robin
Song sparrow
American goldfinch
Eastern towhee
House finch
Eastern bluebird
Red-winged blackbird
Brown thrasher
Gray catbird
Carolina wren
Tufted titmouse
Black-capped chickadee
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Northern cardinal
Blue jay
Chipping sparrow
Mourning dove
Bobwhite
Eastern Phoebe
American crow


For identification of your birds and advice on birding, Cornell University has created a great website called All About Birds where you can identify your birds, watch videos of their behavior, and listen to their songs. I can't think of a better way to introduce birding. It's a great resource for the homeschool. And if you are curious about any of the birds I describe here, you can visit this site to see them.

I recommend that, one morning this summer, you open the door and have your breakfast with the earth at your feet. If you have a porch or patio, all the better. As you sit with your breakfast in the early quiet, you may find, as I have, that the animals are as curious about you as you are about them.


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