A Perfect Summer Moment in February

Birdwatching. It conjures up images of walks in the countryside, wearing tweed and bringing a picnic lunch (for future reference, any image I conjure will be catered). And although I am planning to bring that image to life in the coming months (it’s a little damp and dreary for picnicking right now) bird watching has become a part of our routine here in the hive.

We’ve always been bird-lovers, and both come from families of bird enthusiasts. My grandfather raises homing pigeons and one of my favorite sounds is that of a flock of pigeons taking off from their loft and circling overhead, occasionally swooping low in perfect formation, and ending their flight with a choreographed landing. There’s no word in the English language to describe the sound so I won’t attempt it, but that sound, combined with the warmth of summer and the scent of freshly cut grass forms about as perfect a moment as I can imagine. Unfortunately, it’s a sound I haven’t heard since I’ve been here, and I miss it very much.

There are, however, other birds, and the sight and sound of them has brought our home a lot of joy over the past few months. We noticed the birds hanging around when the Mountain Ash trees in our back yard were full of berries, and quickly purchased some bird seed. Our efforts have been rewarded by many visitors, and a copy of Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America has helped us to identify them. Generally we have a lot of Juncos and Sparrows, and on occasion a few Red Winged Blackbirds. While watching our regular bird feeder visitors during the fall were lucky enough to see a flock of Canada Geese flying overhead. About a month ago, I noticed a Bald Eagle in a tall spruce tree several blocks away. He stayed there for several days, left, was replaced by a crow, and the tree has been vacant ever since. I keep looking back, hoping to see my eagle, but so far he’s staying away.

Our Yorkshire Terrier enjoys the birds; after coming home from the shelter he discovered a comfy spot on the back of our sofa and that is where he spends the majority of his days, keeping watch over the backyard and the birds. Occasionally we are summoned by his insistent yapping to some avian upset that has taken place, but for the most part he is quietly content watching his friends through the window.

As we have been observing the birds through the window, we’ve been missing out on one of the best things about bird watching, bird song. I took the dogs out the back door early one morning and was greeting by the trilling and tweeting of happy, well-fed birds. This made me think of how wonderful it will be in the summer when the windows are open and their songs will be heard inside. I thought of our gardening plans and how we could plant some flowers that appeal to birds so we could attract more to our yard. Our window would be perfect for hummingbird feeders, too…suddenly, despite the mid-winter chill, I was feeling a little bit warmer.

And then, a few days later, it happened. I was standing on my patio in the back yard, watching Molly and Tinky Wink run around, when I heard it. It was a familiar sound, one that transported me to my grandparent’s backyard on a perfect Cape Breton summer day, with the scent of freshly cut grass perfuming the air. A glance up confirmed it, it was the sound of several small but strong wings taking off and circling overhead, occasionally swooping low in perfect formation, and ending their flight with a choreographed landing. I couldn’t believe it. Standing on my toes, I strained to see where they had landed, and there they were, bobbing around on the ledge of a pigeon loft. Homing pigeons. The February day felt quite warm now, and as I headed inside with my dogs, I had a smile on my face, a spring in my step, and summer in my heart.

Enjoy your weekend and any unexpected adventures it may bring! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

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