For the past few years, there have been signs that Kris and I, as we get older, might become birdwatchers. Kris has always exhibited a keen eye for birds of prey, pointing out hawks and eagles that I’d otherwise not notice. I’ve often delighted at winged visitors at the feeder. (Though I take equal delight when one of our cats makes a meal of a visitor.)
We’ve taken even greater delight in birds since moving to the new house. We’re still not serious about birdwatching as a hobby — we don’t take notes, we don’t keep records — but there are times that one of us will call for the other — “Kris, come quick! Come quick!” — and we’ll watch silently while some bird plays in the yard.
One recent afternoon, we watched the scrub jays take turns wading in the birdbath, dousing themselves with enthusiasm.
Another day, we thought we saw a hawk roosting on an aerial across the street. We saw the same bird, or something similar, a few days later. This time I had my binoculars at hand so that we were able to get a closer look. Which bird of prey had we spied? A pigeon. A large, plump pigeon.
We’re not exactly expert-level birders.
Earlier this summer, I was whiling away a Saturday morning underneath the walnut tree, basking in the sun. A small bird alighted on the tree and began knocking at the trunk. Either it knocked very slowly, or it knocked so rapidly that the many raps merged into one. I figured the bird to be a woodpecker, but a glance through The Sibley Guide to Birds revealed that I’d most likely seen a Northern Flicker. (Though I’m only able to say that with maybe 75% confidence.)
While I was outside today, exterminating slugs (seventeen!), a gorgeous blue bird with a black tufted head landed in the walnut. It was a beautiful thing, with glossy feathers, and a graceful demeanor. When I described it to Kris, she suggested that it might be a jay, and indeed it was. We see plenty of Western Scrub-Jays here, but this was a Steller’s Jay. It was beautiful. I want to see another.
There were two other minor bird incidents today. In the first, a scrub jay was harrying one of the squirrels, which was standing in the lawn, eating nuts. In the other, three large crows swooped and twined together, playing over the lawn. Mortimer, one of the neighborhood cats (who has decided he actually lives on our front porch) watched the crows intently.
“You know,” I said to Kris. “I don’t think I know a cat who could take a crow. I think a crow could kick any cat’s ass. Crows are big, and they’re smart, and they look a little mean.”
“And their beaks are hard and pointy,” Kris added.
For the rest of the day I said, “Hello, Corvus,” whenever I saw a crow.
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