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Finding Solace in Backyard Birdwatching: Reflections from an Amateur

I moved a yellow polka dot chair from my office. I carried it across the hall to our bedroom. I placed it in front of the window that I had raised open. The rain picked up a bit, and I sat down with my pink yarn and crochet hook in hand, listening to the birds and water drops hitting the fallen leaves and pine straw.

Watching birds has become a calming event that is sure to lift my spirits. Although I’ve always been afraid of birds (and even feathers when I was a kid), I find the little dinosaurs intriguing.

And now, in my very late 30s, I want to know everything there is to know about these birds occupying my backyard. Do I still scream if one gets too close? Yes. Would I panic if one landed on me? Absolutely. 

All the same, I downloaded Merlin Bird ID via Cornell University's Ornithology Lab to help me along the way. The app has definitely made me feel more official. It’s truly been a wonderful experience to not only hear the sounds and songs in my backyard firsthand, but then to also simultaneously be able to identify them, to learn flock patterns, to routinely spot new varieties.

Of course, being a North Carolina native, I find the bright red cardinal and its less colorful counterpart to be among my most favorite birds. The red is indescribable and noticeable from afar. Let’s not forget the songs the male cardinals holler early in the morning—so distinct and staccato in nature.

Aside from the cardinals, I might peg the mourning doves as my second favorite. For so long, I thought their cooing songs were owls. Imagine that—having never seen an owl in real life, I was intrigued. Lo and behold, it was actually a tiny group of mourning doves that I thought were simply pigeons. I have a soft spot for them; I have only seen them ground feed and roost on the ground, sunbathing, seemingly oblivious to danger. We've got a host of stray cats in our neighborhood, and I worry they may fall prey.

Pain Points

I guess my biggest quandary is communicable, zoonotic cooties. I worry about what I can contract, what my dogs can contract—and maybe give me?

Seems like over the last few COVID-19 years, North Carolina has seen seasonal and routine issues with the bird flu. And maybe it’s always been that way, and I am just now paying attention because birds have become a real special interest.

It’s really difficult for me to relax, to be in the moment, to be present. I don’t think I ever truly have been (unless I was running, dancing, or performing in some way ). Additionally, birdwatching seems like such a luxury pastime that I’ve told myself I do not deserve. (More on that another day and time.)

It is nice, though, to pause for a moment and take in the sights and sounds of my little backyard oasis surrounded by trees on one side. You can hear a pretty busy thoroughfare from our house, from the backyard deck. But it honestly adds to the experience, in my opinion. It’s a type of white noise I’ve come to appreciate…as I write this, I hear a train in the distance. 

These days are going by both fast and at a snail’s pace—equally. I’ve been stuck in COVID-19 lockdown mode for 4 damn years.

It’s nice to find joy in life, even in one of nature’s smallest beings. I feel closer to nature, God, and the Universe.

Here are some things I’ll be checking out later:

I share a few highlights of my birdwatching experiences on my TikTok and Instagram.


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