Hope is the thing with feathers

birdandbirdhouse

“Hope is the thing with feathers.
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

Emily the poet is speaking metaphorically about the enigmatic lightness of hope, but isn’t it also true that birds themselves inspire? Maybe it’s because they break the spell of gravity in ways we just can’t. Or maybe it’s their colourful plumage

duckiesthat is, sometimes, almost too beautiful to describe? Whatever is the hook for you, birding can be a rewarding way of engaging with our world.

Lydia and I have several bird feeders (and a bird bath) in our backyard, and spend a lot of time marvelling at our frequent winged visitors: downy woodpeckers, blue jays, baltimore orioles, chickadees, nuthatches and all manner of sparrows (of course). At the lake this summer I was taken by a pair of territorial loons (with their awesome calls) greatgreyowland a female common merganser whose squawk didn’t quite match the birds he shared the lake with. Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to take this snapshot of a Great Grey Owl on Highway 59 that swooped down toward me earlier. (Okay, I was in a car at the time.)

For years I’ve been on the lookout for the all-brilliant-red scarlet tanager. I haven’t found him or her yet, although some do make their home in Manitoba in summer. It was only last year that I spotted my second favourite ‘target’, the indigo bunting. A few make their home in the Assiniboine Park’s English Gardens. Here is a picture of one male below, making his presence known. Did you know they fly each fall to Central America and come back to Winnipeg in the spring?SafariScreenSnapz001 What birds are you on the lookout for?

Gratefully, the public library has a wealth of resources for birders.

A good place to start ismanitobabirds the book Manitoba Birds by Andy Bezener & Ken De Smet. What’s great is that it describes in detail almost all of the birds – from eagles to house sparrows – you will encounter around the province. No flipping through hundreds of pages of ‘foreign’ birds when you want to find the species you are looking at through your living room window, or on a trip to the park.

StokesFieldGuideA more comprehensive encyclopedia of birds is this gem:
Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald & Lillian Stokes. There is also a Western Region-only version of the book.

For younger folk, the library has this:

BirdGuideBird guide of North America: the best birding book for kids from National Geographic’s bird experts edited by Jonathan Alderfer: “Featuring 100 species of birds from coast to coast this colorful guide helps kids identify and understand birds…Features includes how to build a birdhouse and a birdfeeder.” For ages 7 – 9.

greenbirdingOther interesting books to borrow include
Green Birding
by Richard Gregson Unknownand Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips by Deborah L. Martin.

For an amazing series of photographs and stories about birds, why not try Between the Wingtips: The Secret Life of Birds by Brutus wingtimsOstling and Magnus Ullman.

Ullman makes the illuminating point that you can enjoy birds even without a particular interest: “There are so many intriguing connections and remarkable facts to consider about birds that you do not necessarily have to be in the least bit interested in them to be fascinated by them. All you need is a curiosity about life and an open mind. After all, the migration of the arctic tern from pole to pole and the reflection of the sun in a dewdrop are both equally fascinating and equally wonderful to behold.” Yeah, that says it.

– Lyle

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