Three Amazing Things I Learned From the Birds

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.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

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.

You can find the places I link up here.

56 comments

  1. Gratitude is one of those attitudes that can correct so many things. I thought I saw a couple of eagles flying over my house last Sunday, but I later decided they were just hawks instead. 🙂 We can learn so many things from birds! I’m thankful God created them (practicing my gratitude, ha).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have lots of birds around here. We live in a wooded area, so it stands to reason. I’ve never heard of putting sticky tape on trees like you mention. That sounds macabre to me. I’m glad you rescued the bird. People are awful sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t necessarily enjoy running in the rain and very rarely do it willingly. However, one year my sister and I did a race in Atlantic City and it rained the whole time and we had the most fun during that race! I guess you always have to find the positive in situations:)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We love our birds here, too, Laurie, and feed them regularly. But your story of the downy woodpecker takes the cake! Even though he might have been fearful when you approached, somehow he knew you were there to help. Isn’t our marvelous Father so faithful to help us reconnect with His creation in such unexpected ways? What a gratifying, and might I venture, miraculous encounter you had. Thanks so much for sharing that here. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That woodpecker was lucky you happened along at that time of peril. I am glad you were able to save it. Whew – close call. I have always enjoyed watching birds have an impromptu bath, whether it is in a puddle in the street after a rainfall, under the sprinkler – even in a gutter when a neighbor’s gutters needed cleaning. My canary would not go into his bathtub and I tried several styles, but he was delighted to dive into his water cup if I walked into the other room for a minute. 🙂 There is pure joy in bathing for birds. I love birds too, but not Cooper’s Hawks. Cooper’s Hawks have moved in/around Council Point Park and go after my squirrels. I almost lost Stubby (the squirrel missing half his tail) because I fed him and the hawk went after him. What really saddens me if my gray squirrels (Grady and his mate) and two other squirrels which I fed daily. My neighbor saw the Cooper’s Hawk watching them at my house eating peanuts in the feeder I had. I will always feel badly about that. We used to have Peregrine Falcons who nabbed birds in flight. The circle of life sometimes turns my stomach Laurie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a delightful post Laurie! I love the lessons here!
    You won’t believe it but it was only yesterday while I was out walking that I witnessed some amazing bird activity & thought what a good blog post that encounter would make! 😀
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your bird observations and each one of those lessons, Laurie. And thank you for saving the woodpecker!

    In the river next to our apartment in the city (!) we have two grey herons. They seem to stand perfectly still for hours until they pounce on some passing fish.
    I learned that being patient is rewarding!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have some beautiful bird-life in your area! I didn’t know that was happening to your trees. In Jasper, AB, we have the pine beetle but no tape will work for them. So lovely how you received a nod of thanks. We really are in this altogether!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. what a wonderful post. What lessons for us all. I love that the woodpecker thanked you, in it’s way, non verbal but distinct enough that you got the message. You also listened to the message it sent, which is more than most humans would do. That also says a lot

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Laurie, your downy woodpecker moment filled my eyes with tears. What beautiful observations you share here… I’m not sure which moved me more–the joy of the wingpit washing or the nonverbal gratitude! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The woodpecker story was amazing! I know spotted lantern flies have reached York county, but I haven’t seen any here. I saw a lot on the trees at Tiny Estates in Etown and plenty smashed near the river trail in Columbia. Dad and I stomped as those we saw during our cooldown walk last Friday!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Loved this post. I tried commenting 3 x yesterday and kept getting kicked off. Didn’t want you to think I was too busy to read, lol. What an amazing gift you gave to the woodpecker a nd it gave back to you. Because you took the time to notice. Blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your persistence, Michele. My husband has been having trouble opening my site. It must be a WordPress thing. So sorry!I never thought about the woodpecker returning kindness but you are right! Blessings to you, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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