WELL, IT APPEARS that I missed National Birding Day. And I’m sorry I did. But here at the Church O’ The Pines by the Mississippi, every day is Birding Day. We love and admire all the members of our congregation, but the feathered ones hold a special place in our Caretakers’ hearts.
Sparky the Cardinal and his mate, and our resident chickadees, seem to share—and take seriously—a special responsibility to lift our spirits every day, even through the long winter months. The antics of The Three Crows and the gossiping and rumor-mongering of the bluejays are daily staples as well. And we never tire of the laughing good nature of the pileated woodpeckers and the company of their cousins.
Now, with the river open, it is a rich new soundscape, with the voices of Canada geese and trumpeter swans, Sandhill cranes and goldeneyes all returning. There are few days here at the Church that compare with those first few days after breakup, when so many of our migrating members reappear. Scaup and buffleheads, hooded and common mergansers, shovelers and wood ducks and mallards all come floating or winging by. Our first blue heron (what my Aunt Mary used to call the Great Blue Herring) arrived this week. Very soon the kingfishers will be here, rattling from a dead branch, then plunging headfirst into the water.
Our pair of bald eagles came back to their 3 year old nest early this spring, long before the river opened, and are now tending eggs. We watch eagerly for small heads to appear over the edge of the nest, and listen for the screeching of hungry and demanding babies. Soon the woods will be full of babies—the fox kits are already here—and the activity will be endless. And soon, too, even more birds will be arriving—catbirds and orioles and bluebirds, all our beautiful warblers—many just passing through. The wood thrush will be back, and we will thrill to its heavenly notes in the Church’s misty sanctuary. The robins and mourning doves are already here, with their sweet voices added to the now swelling ranks of the Church choir.
And of course, we wait to welcome our hummingbirds, back from their incredible journey, returning to one particular tree branch in one particular woods, out of all the possibilities on all the planet. It seems extraordinary.
They are all extraordinary—all our friends—and they enrich our lives immeasurably. It is a good day to celebrate them, and all their admirable qualities. Even if we did miss National Birding Day. We wish you a good day, wherever you are.