Thursday, October 8, 2009


We just moved into the manse in Winner. The furniture hadn’t arrived yet, and I was looking out a picture window onto the front lawn. A bird fluttered to the ground and hopped around awkwardly. It was bigger than a Robin, a buffy grey brown color, darker on top than underneath, with a speckled chest, a black crescent at it’s neck, and black cheek markings. Someone had painted the back of it’s head with a slash of insanely red nail polish. A disconcerting bit of living vandalism. In a glimmer of yellow underwings another bird landed next to it, bearing the same red mark. Whoa! What have we here? I dashed to the phone and called my favorite expert, Dad. He said, "Oh, it must be a Flicker".That short interchange sparked an ongoing fascination with birds.

One unusual thing about the Prairie, was the wild life. Nestled between two regions, we’d encounter birds from the east and west. A Western Tanager in the Black Hills, both the Eastern and Western Kingbirds on my clothesline out back, a Baltimore Oriole playing in puddles on our driveway, and a solid yellow Warbler with a slightly aberrant song perched on our neighbor’s car door handle. Unexpected sightings became an encouragement that God was there during trying times, when people had backed off. A kind of love letter in a feathered envelope. During a particularly rough time, we saw an immature Bald Eagle plummet into a gully right next to our car as we drove. With two great, silent wing flaps it floated back into the sky. Awesome.

We moved back east, and for the most part it’s been pleasant. Several years ago a family pulled up stakes and left our lives. No explanation. I was sitting at a picnic table near a wooded area, thinking about it, when a huge form flew across the top of my vision and attached itself to the side of a tall tree. It’s crest was unmistakable. To that was added the singular deep drumming of a Pileated Woodpecker. It flew off, and returned, drummed a bit more, and then was gone.

So one afternoon last week, I spent a solid ten minutes enjoying a Yellow Shafted Flicker in our side yard pecking bugs out of the earth. After all these years, it’s still my favorite bird.

1 comment:

  1. birds are beautiful to watch. I know very little about them but I do appreciate their beauty.