Outdoors recreation for the birds


Famous aviator, Charles Lindberg said, “I’d rather have birds than airplanes.”

Their sound greets us every morning and lulls us to sleep every night: the chirping, cooing and whip-poor-willing of the winged population that lives around our wooded home.

If we step out onto our deck at any time of the day, or open the windows on a cool summer evening, we can eavesdrop on their ongoing chatter: the cheerful songs of orioles and sparrows, the alarm-sounding of the blue jays, and the calming coos of the mourning doves.

They all seem to be talking at the same time, like they’re trying to be heard over the fray, more like a rowdy football stadium than an elegant concert hall; but whatever their mood, the sound is intoxicating.

Our bird feeders serve as traffic hubs for warblers and wrens, mockingbirds and catbirds. Sparrows frantically peck at food on the ground, while woodpeckers cling to the suet cages. Then, when they fly into the woods we can hear them tapping into the tree bark.

Many of the birds we hear are rarely seen, but we know they are there, as much by their song as the white remnants they leave on the top of our cars.

We prepare feeders for hummingbirds and orioles, and build houses for bluebirds. We watch the changing seasons as the different species make themselves known: celebrating spring with the robins, enjoying the holidays with the chickadees, and welcoming fall as the geese noisily turn toward the south.

We are not the stereotypical bird watchers; we lack safari-like hats and vests, or binoculars around our necks. But we do appreciate the paradox of the birds: the way they seem both tough and fragile, protective and playful; skittish, and brave. And the way they defy gravity, like the hummingbirds that zip around the sky, diving and climbing, projecting a combination of curiosity and joy.

We marvel at the way they hover at the feeder, dipping their needle noses into the nectar time and again, suspended by wings fluttering so fast we can barely seem them; and we feel lucky to catch a glimpse of the tiny creatures perched on a branch, if even for just a moment, before they speed off into the air again.

The Reader’s Digest “Birds of North America” reference book describes birders as ones who “enjoy going out by themselves, and there is much to be said for the solitary early morning walk or a restful hour by a pond or stream,” but also recognizes the value of studying birds in groups and learning from more experienced observers.

The Audubon Society describes central Pennsylvania’s “sprawling forest land as a birding paradise,” as avid hunters and anglers know better than anyone.

We are fortunate that we don’t have to visit sanctuaries to enjoy the birds, our own backyards are the sanctuaries for us and for them, providing restful and free recreation all day, every day.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.