Saturday, August 27, 2005

Escapades with junior birders

Part of loving something is passing that love down to others. That’s why I’m a birder now, I think.

As soon as I came home from school, I introduced my three and four-year-old brothers to the world of birding. They quickly caught on to my enthusiasm. Trips to the library would produce a plethora of bird books in our home, and the boys were always anxious to view the birds I pointed out to them.

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Nathan and William enjoy one of their many bird books

August 26

I had four children to myself tonight, and a trip to the pond seemed a good way to pass the evening. Armed with a bottle, a stroller, diapers, water, and bread, we departed.

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The children were eager to begin feeding the ducks

We looked at mockingbirds and fed ducks. When night fell, I pointed to the bats circling over the water. William had recently lamented the fact that he had never seen a bat, so I was happy to remedy that.

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William looks at mockingbirds

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Feeding the ducks

August 27

A cold front came through today, bringing with it temperatures just above 85 and a welcome breeze that woke up the sleeping trees. I took Nathan and the binoculars to the backyard. I pointed out swifts and cardinals. Nathan had more luck on his own, however. Some of his proclamations were a catbird, a cowbird, an eagle, and a Purple Finch. If only I could find some of those birds in Dallas.

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Nathan looks at swifts

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Today was a hot day. Even I wouldn’t have sent the children to spend the day outside. A morning drive from Longview to Dallas followed by an entire day cooped up in the house with six children under six-years-old tired me and tested my patience. I even snapped at a few of my family members this evening.

Exhausted and ashamed, I left the five preschoolers playing in the backyard and took the baby for a walk. The day was cool by then, -- the temperature might have even ducked close to 90 -- and life was showing in my beloved neighborhood. Children played basketball while adults watered their parched lawns. I smiled at friends and then turned my attention to the sky.

Mourning doves flew over first -- calming birds. I used to dislike them. I rounded the corner and seven swallows fluttered past. Cliffs, I think. I brought binoculars, but I hadn’t used them for so long that I forgot to look through them.

At the top of the hill, a sparrow’s round body darted past. Crickets and cicadas sang their evening chorus. Mockingbirds and sparrows were plenteous, and a cardinal or two played among the rooftops.

As I neared home, more birds began coming out. I would have enjoyed another walk around the block, but home duties called me back. Above the greenbelt, swifts dotted the sky. I went inside.

God's in His Heaven,
all's right with the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

An evening dance

Feeling sick for my farewell party meant that I didn’t have to play volleyball. Instead, I stretched out on the church building’s back steps and watched twilight steal over the sky.

Soon the birds came. Birds! In the craziness of the past few days I had forgotten. I gazed intently and greeted the creatures I had come to know so well during the summer.

The swifts took the stage. They waltzed and twirled, and I wished I could join in.

Next a few doves dashed across. Why are they always in such a hurry?

Mockingbirds flapped behind them, sometimes coming close enough to allow me to see their markings.

Then came the star – the nighthawk. Aside from a brief glimpse of a few while driving through West Texas, I hadn’t seen any since before I had learned what they were. Then, I was focused on identification. Now, though, I could enjoy the bird.

I recognized the white stripes on the underside of the wings. I had tried to attempt an identification with only those at first. I hadn’t noticed the way the wings sweep back so gracefully, the triangular head, the way the birds flutter.

All too soon, the nighthawks made their exit. The rest of the dance was filled with the usual birds. Usual, but not really usual. How can any part of creation be usual?

Soon little brothers needed care, so I went inside, feeling restored and refreshed from my night with the birds.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Be still

I’ve been busy these days. From the first cry in the morning to the final kisses at night, I scarcely have time to think, much less to bird. I can still rejoice in my Father’s creation, though.

While helping the youth group with a car wash, I marvel at the multitude of rock pigeons flying above. While taking the little ones on a walk, I smile at the sparrows and mockingbirds and point them out to eager young eyes. While busy in my room, I watch the birds playing in our neighbors’ crape myrtles. Sometime soon, I’ll find the time to refill the feeder. Then I’ll indulge in brief glances at buzzing titmice and chickadees.

“Be still and know that I am God,” the Bible says. Even in the midst of crazy outside circumstances, we can admire the Lord’s creation and do just what His word says.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The hummingbird's return

I’ve always loved hummingbirds. When I was very young, our neighbors had a feeder and would talk of the tiny hummingbirds they saw there. I remember being somewhat jealous of their little boys. They got to see hummingbirds routinely, while I had to content myself with pictures.

Then, one day, a large group of neighbor kids gathered in the bird-lovers’ home, and the birds came. We stood at the window and watched in wonder. Amidst a chorus of “ahhs,” each girl declared her intention to put a feeder up in her backyard.

That feeder granted us many days of fascination. Although I was not a birder at the time – indeed, had never even heard the word – I could still appreciate the beauty of those delicate creatures. Then the feeder broke.

Since then, our backyard has been hummingbirdless. Until today. This morning, I glanced out the kitchen window to see a familiar blur. A hummingbird had found my sister’s container garden.

Hopefully, the few weeks before school will bring many of the birds to our backyard.