For as long as I can remember, I fed the birds. Even when I was a wee child in Brooklyn, NY, my mother and I put seeds out on our fourth-floor apartment’s fire escape (shhh, don’t tell the fire marshalls!) and on our windowsills to see if birds might come. And come they did!
I am sure at least some of my passion for this hobby came from being entranced by the famous bird woman scene in Mary Poppins. I always wanted that snow globe with the pigeons…
But I never thought very much about what kinds of birds showed up. Oh, I recognized the sparrows, blue jays, and pigeons, of course. But that was the extent of my bird knowledge for a very long time.
About fifteen years ago, when I was still living on Long Island, the local store was out of the usual all-purpose bird food. The only bag left was a bit more expensive, and labeled, “For Chickadees”.
I had no idea what a chickadee looked like, or if they even existed in my part of the United States or planet. But I bought the bag, figuring my regulars would eat the seeds anyway.
No more than twenty (twenty!) minutes after I put out the seeds, a kind of bird I had never seen before in my life flew down to the feeder. I stared in astonishment and looked again at the seed bag, and for the first time noticed there was a picture of a chickadee on it. A black-capped chickadee, to be precise. Just like the one that was now at my feeder.
I still ask myself, was the poor little fellow sitting up in a tree for a decade, looking down and just waiting for me to offer him a decent meal?
Ever since then, I have become an enthusiastic amateur ornithologist. I have learned the truth of the concept, “If you build it, they will come,” in relation to bird feeders, bird houses, and birdseed. Over the years that followed, an amazing number of new species came to visit my own yard!
As a result, for many years now I’ve also used bird identification within my elementary school curriculum as an enrichment topic. It connects so well with so many subjects including nonfiction reading, writing, map skills, and art. Plus, kids LOVE it! More on that another time…
For now, look to the skies. You never know who might be watching and waiting.