The most beautiful rhythm has developed in our home over the last year. It all began with a bird focused nature study during our previous school year, which grew into an ongoing observation that we as a family enjoy daily.
It started through happenstance. I happened to enter a contest on a social media site, put on through our state chapter of the Audubon society. I then happened to win. And in that package we received the most wonderful beginner bird watching information, along with a suet feeder, some hand held hummingbird feeders, and some native plant seeds. I entered the contest because we were studying birds for our fall term nature study. Within a few days we had our suet feeder up, full with fresh food. Suet is a cake made from animal fats and bird seed, usually in a square form. From there my husband found a hanging hummingbird feeder on sale, which we hung from a tree, within view of our kitchen window. The suet feeder hung from a pole just off our deck, also in view from our kitchen window. We spent the first few days watching nearly all day for birds to arrive. Each meal we sat down to eat, our eyes were drawn to the feeders. The first hummingbirds soon showed up and we all screamed our excitement, which scared the darling little creature away. Thankfully, they are persistent and kept coming back. Our focus out this window stirred our passion for learning and soon all of our best bird guides were piled in the corner of the window sill.
My husband brought home another feeder to put a different food in, sunflower seeds this time; which grabbed the attention the squirrels. They are acrobatic little buggers, and we soon had to find a way to keep them from getting into the sunflower seed feeder. After a bit of research we found that a metal slinky hung over the pole seemed to do the trick. It also gave us one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen: an unknowing little bird flew onto the slinky expecting a solid landing, but instead bobbed up and down for a minute or two. Sadly, I was not recording, but my children and I laughed about that for at least a week.
"...attuning our attention to our little slice of the natural world, sitting just outside of our kitchen window. "
Over the course of the academic year we were thrilled to see a wide variety of birds come and go. My children delighted at spying the brilliant red flashes of the ruby throated hummingbird. My camera found a new home, permanently waiting moments to snap photos of the birds that passed through. We started checking off lists for the birds we spotted. My children colored in their bird coloring books when they saw a certain species. They delighted in imagining that Jenny Wren came visiting our home regularly, thanks to the wonderful book “The Burgess Bird Book for Children.” In the mid winter , I had the great delight of seeing a pair of Indigo buntings fly through; pausing only briefly in our trees; but the sight of them lingers in my memory. A sight that I would not have seen if we hadn’t spent the previous few months attuning our attention to our little slice of the natural world, sitting just outside of our kitchen window.
As winter warmed away and signs of spring began to show, we began to see the baby woodpeckers and baby cardinals accompany their parents to the feeder. In our yard or nearby, we had a family of downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, and American bluebirds. They came which such regularity that we could almost count on the time of day we would see them. We watched that window at breakfast, lunch, and at our family dinners; my children excitedly giving a daily report to my husband about what we had seen. It wasn’t long and we decided to expand our nature window to include other species. My husband and son took to the garage to build a wood home to hang on the tree, while originally intended for birds, a squirrel took up residence. Watching it’s little face peer out of the circular hole just melted me every time I saw it. We allowed what was left of our raised bed gardens to grow wild, and it soon overflowed with native grasses and plants, which attracted pollinators and insects of all kinds.
" In our yard or nearby, we had a family of downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, and American bluebirds. They came which such regularity that we could almost count on the time of day we would see them."
Due to where we live, we are quite lucky to see a wide range of species fly through. Our city lies directly in a migration path, which gives us the opportunity to see many birds we may not have had a chance to. Though, we have to be prepared for it. This year, we already have plans to expand our bird feeders to also attract the Baltimore Oriole, my husband’s favorite bird. From what we have heard, oranges should do the trick. We are also doing our due diligence in researching native plants and plan to fill our yard and garden with helpful and purposeful plants. This little window of, well it’s actually a large window, but still a window, has become an enduring learning opportunity for all of us. Our attention has become fined tuned to the natural world that exists even within our little patch of the city. We have learned to be amazed by the flickering red of the ruby throated hummingbird, to recognize which woodpecker it is that we can hear in the tops of our trees, to notice the bird species that favor the suet feeders. This nature window has become a profoundly powerful tool for focusing our attention, feeding our souls, and teaching lessons our entire family has enjoyed learning.