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Observations of a Backyard Birder

Spring is such a glorious time of rebirth. Flowers make their way above the soil and present us with brilliant blossoms. Young ones of all species take flight to find their own way. This spring has unfolded with many delights among the flowers and birds which grace my backyard. The orchard oriole is back, not as splashy as their Baltimore cousin, but beautiful none the less with its rusty orange, brown and black feathers. Then there are the black bibbed sparrows with their splashy white epaulettes across their brown streaked shoulders and Carolina wrens with their white eyeshadow. I relish the visits of these less brilliantly hued birds as much as I do the blue birds and cardinals who visit my feeders.

Every June I’m filled with thoughts of another generation graduating from high schools and colleges throughout the country. I generally borrow the metaphor from a long-

ago television newscaster and think of these graduates as ships sailing with the flag of their families. This year my mind turns to my grandson’s high school graduation. Where will he land as his life moves forward?

I’ve always thought watching the young birds learn to fly and forage for food independently to be a happy occasion. And it is rather special to watch the fledglings learn to land. At least missing the perch on my bird feeder is not as deadly as a fighter plane botching its landing on a carrier. The young birds often execute a crash landing on the ground under the feeder.

The muddy brown feathers make it difficult to discern whether they are sparrows or wrens as the ground becomes alive with their movements. Their cries are piteous and sharp while circling momma bird. No melodious song here to start my morning on a peaceful note. Their tiny beaks stretch open wide. If momma bird misses one of her brood as she pops a bit of food into the outstretched beaks, the overlooked one flutters its wings so rapidly they become a blur as it strives to stand out from its siblings and garner momma bird’s attention.

It occurred to me, as I watched the birds mature, that this occurrence in nature is being repeated on stages in high school and college campuses throughout the country. Young people will take their place in society. Some will go off to jobs, trade schools or college campuses. What joys and disappointments will meet them on this journey?

Bird songs fill the air in early mornings. Carolina wrens warble such delightful songs as they greet the day and hop along my patio furniture or the framework of my gazebo. Cardinals add their song which sounds something like “what chirr”. At least according to the internet. I have difficulty identifying most birds by their calls. Over the last few weeks, as all the eggs hatched and the little ones in the nest began calling for food, their cries overpowered the more pleasant birdsong. The cheeps and peeps of the young sparrows and wrens are anything but pleasant. Their human counterparts can be rather raucous at times too, as they assert their individuality.

Today I noticed the cheeping and peeping has diminished somewhat. The more advanced fledglings are now landing on the feeders without crashing. A few of them are having to land on the ground and then pop up to a perch. The wings flutter less. They turn to momma bird less often. Their markings are becoming more distinct as white epaulettes appear on darker brown feathers and the white eyeshadow slashes across russet brown. Momma bird is less likely to be at the center of her brood, although she’s often on the sidelines. In another week or so, the new bird generation will fly off to form their own flock. Most college campuses appear deserted. Over the next few weeks, high schools will send off their seniors and all the young ones will fly or sail away to whatever the future holds. May they find peace, joy, and love.

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