I have been watching birds for several decades. As a bird-watcher, I have gotten much pleasure viewing brightly-colored warblers, raucous blue jays, and fearsome birds of prey.
Lately, I have been thinking about the lessons I have learned from some individual birds. Here is my attempt to pass those lessons along to you.
I love running in the rain. Especially a warm, summer rain. It energizes me and cools me off, true, but the biggest benefit is that it reminds me of being a kid, giving myself permission to splash in the puddles.
When my husband and I set out to run one morning a few weeks ago in a light drizzle, I knew it was going to be a good run, and I was right. We did an easy four miles.
Minutes after returning to our house, the drizzle turned into a downpour. While Bill showered, I stepped out on our porch to watch the rain falling.
As I was watching the rain, I noticed several Mourning Doves perched in the shelter of our crabapple tree.
Suddenly, one of the doves left his perch in the tree and settled in the street, exposing himself to the full force of the raindrops, and shaking like a wet dog. He was giving himself a bath and looked like he was enjoying himself.
After playing in the rain for a minute or so, the bird held first one wing, then the other up toward the sky, just like a person would do in the shower to wash under their arms.
The bird was washing his wingpits! I could almost see him grinning.
While the other doves cowered in the tree, this bird was having the time of his life.
The lesson I learned from this dove is to find joy in each moment. We never know how many more moments we have. If we can have some fun, we should do it.
I did a solo long run last weekend. I was running one of my favorite courses, out in farm country, when I saw an unremarkable group of Crows perched on some telephone wires.
Suddenly, one Crow left his perch, then others soon followed. I looked up to see a hawk landing on the wire where the birds had been perched. The remainder of the Crows lingered for a second, then hightailed it away from the hawk.
Red-tailed Hawks are common predators patrolling nearby fields, searching for mice and voles, which make up the majority of their diet.
Crows are typically not afraid of Red-tails. In fact, seeing Crows heckling or mobbing Red-tailed Hawks to drive them away from vulnerable nests is common.
The unusual behavior of the Crows, flying away from an approaching hawk rather than standing their ground and driving off the intruder, made me stop and remove my sunglasses for a closer look.
The hawk was not a Red-tail. With my sunglasses removed, I saw the banding on the tail and the much sleeker profile that identified the hawk as a Cooper’s Hawk.
I looked up and saw another Cooper’s Hawk swooping above the one perched on the wire, then another and another. I counted five Cooper’s Hawks circling overhead – a bonanza. More Cooper’s Hawks than I have ever seen together at one time.
No wonder the Crows hightailed it. While Red-tailed Hawks typically do not include other birds in their diet, birds make up the majority of Cooper’s Hawks’ menu.
I learned from the Cooper’s Hawks to not take anything for granted. To pay attention.
I could easily have assumed “Red-tail” and missed the whole show. Pennies from Heaven are tossed at us broadside by a generous hand, but we have to be willing to look closely to find them sometimes
Our county is overrun with invaders from China.
Not Mongol hordes, Spotted Lanternflies, an invasive insect species which causes millions of dollars worth of damage to crops.
They are everywhere. You can see them crawling up tree trunks by the hundreds.
In an effort to reduce their numbers, many homeowners, including our neighbors, have placed sticky tape around the trunks of their trees. The bugs crawl up the trunks and get caught on the tape.
Unfortunately, other wildlife gets caught on the tape too.
I was walking through our neighbor’s yard next to a small woodlot and noticed a lot of movement on the sticky tape they had placed on their tree.
Upon closer examination, I was horrified to discover a Downy Woodpecker stuck to the tape and flailing frantically to get loose.
I dashed to my garage to get a pair of work gloves (woodpeckers’ beaks are strong) and gently got him unstuck from the tape. He must not have been stuck for very long, because he looked like he was in good shape, although the day was hot and he was panting.
I decided he might have needed a drink, so I carefully carried him to the bank of a nearby spring and set him down next to the water.
The bird got a drink and splashed in the water for a few seconds.
What happened next took my breath away. The bird stood very still and looked me in the eye. It was almost as if he was saying “Thank you.”
Then he flitted to a nearby tree and was gone.
From this bird, I learned that gratitude is more important than I ever imagined. Even a small gesture of gratitude can leave the thanker and the thanked changed in significant ways. Now is the perfect time to express gratitude.
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