We’ve been watching the birds return to their summer homes these past few weeks. One morning, an explosion of bright orange hit the living room window as a pair of claws scrabbled at the iron mullions, trying to gain a foothold. It was a Baltimore Oriole, come back to the place that had offered free orange halves the year before. I quickly nailed fresh oranges to the porch post and soon both a male and female (not to mention a sapsucker and red squirrel) were pecking at the fruit.
The orioles are nesting high up in the trees facing the house now. A robin has built her nest in the eaves of our barn. It’s a large, somewhat messy affair with straw, which I use to cover the vegetable beds in the winter, spilling down through the rafters. A clan of quarrelsome bluejays has commandeered the towering hemlocks by the garage where, last year, the hummingbirds nested. I’m not sure where they’ve moved to now; they seem to be coming from all directions as they swoop down to hover at the feeders. The other evening at dusk I was standing in the dining room, looking out at the back garden, when a hummingbird stopped in mid-flight, wings beating 80 times a second, and stared back at me for what felt like a long time. Who are you? it seemed to be asking. What are you doing inside when there are so many wonderful places out here to nest?
These lovely photos of the robins (top and bottom) and a hummingbird (middle) were taken by my brother Anders Gyllenhaal who, together with his wife Beverly Mills, created and produce Flying Lessons https://flyinglessons.us/ a beautiful and inspiring website about what we can learn from the birds. And here’s a poem on the subject by the American poet Li-Young Lee.
Look at the birds. Even flying
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
Beautiful in every way. I know watching the birds here in Maine is always comforting and fascinating for me and that is very much so during this strange time we are living through now.
Thanks, Cheryl. Yes, birds are comfort for me, too, especially these days.
I was going to suggest that you contribute these photos to Anders’ website, but of course they were his, so stunning. Thank you for reminding us of the architecture of bird nests, nothing to sneer at, especially the orioles’ hanging basket. This year there are more bird watchers than ever because of the pandemic. It is reassuring to look at another species altogether and see how they adapt.
I wonder if people are so fascinating by birds now because they are free to fly — while so many of us have been sheltering at home.
What a delightful post – and a reminder that a version of this happens everywhere, a little different in the species that come and the timing depending on the geography. But it’s the universal cycle that this year is such a salve when the human world is in disarray. Nice that you could use the photos, some of my favorites.
Thanks, Anders. Yes, I agree that the natural world has offered a lot of comfort this spring — hope, as well. One of the great things about your Flying Lessons is the emphasis it puts on what we can learn from the birds. My garden has taught me so much about patience and letting go!
And it seems that this year, to counteract what’s going on in the world, there are more birds than ever before to watch going about their business. But just to remind us of what’s going on in the world, there is an eagle that has decided he likes our property. The other day he landed on a fence post, spread his wings wide — at least six feet wide — and just stared at us. He’s huge when he’s flying around, but frighteningly so when he’s that close.
Your eagle sounds awesome, Susan, in the true sense of the word. I’m glad he’s at your place, though.
really enjoyed this lovely posting Liza and I love reading Anders and Beverly’s blog Flying Lessons : What the birds teach us…always fascinating..
Thanks, Gwen. So glad you’re following Flying Lessons, too!
Beautiful, and thank you for providing the link to Ander’s and Beverly’s log. I envy their lifestyle! Our experience with fine feathered friends was a bit different this past weekend. The demise of a very unfortunate armadillo led to our yard being filled with, you guessed it probably, vultures. Don, Lucky Bear (the cat) and I spent a great deal of time in the Florida room observing these massive birds and rather unique personalities. The Lord didn’t give them the best assignment on earth, nor attractive features, but I’ve come to appreciate their shy natures while they do nature’s clean up. We laughed at people walking by, afraid to come near – these birds are really such cowards despite stunning wing spans, huge beaks, and some remarkable claws. So, truly not what we would call beautiful, but I do appreciate them….
So nice to hear from you, Carole. Thanks for this fascinating anecdote about the vultures. It must have been quite a sight. But you’re right, every living thing has a use — even if it doesn’t seem all that appetizing to the rest of us!
Our entire neighborhood and our building’s list-serve has been transfixed by a hawk family this spring. The father (Walt) got his wing caught in fishing line and was dangling from a tree right outside our building and next to the National Zoo. Zoo people whom we contacted, called a botanist, and a raptor center. The botanist climbed the tree, rescued the bird, brought him down. The Zoo’s director of birds took him half-way to the raptor center where he was met and transfered to their care. 48 hours later he was well enough to be released in the Zoo parking lot and flew back to his partner and 3 hawk- lets. The story made the Washington P0st and half of DC has been hanging out on the bridge, taking pictures and there is a web site devoted to it.
The youngest of the hawklets flew yesterday. But all 3 are still hanging around with their family. We certainly learned a lot about Hawks this spring.
What a wonderful story, Zina! Thanks so much for sharing it. I love watching how hawks teach their young to fly — but I’ve never seen a family up-close the way you’re able to. What a treat.