The joys of being a ‘looker’

I’ve become a bird-watcher, although there should be a category of bird-watchers that are merely referred to as bird-lookers.
I consider bird-watchers to be a dedicated, informed group who know their “stuff”—who can spot a Cerulean Warbler from 100 feet and then recite that particular bird’s habitat, diet, and shoe-size.
I, on the other hand, jump out of my chair when something yellow lands and my heart rates changes proportionately (the more yellow, the higher my heart rate).
When you think of it, bird-watching is more like a branch of the life-watching department. These people are taking time to really know about the living things on this planet—even if it is limited to birds.
Bird-watchers celebrate when they are witness to a rare or shy species. All events of sighting are considered note-worthy.
So many of us go through life hardly noticing the people we pass on the street, let alone the birds we share the planet with. Bird-watchers can match a bird to its unique voice and to many of us, those songs are merely nature’s noise.
We have a bird feeder in the apple tree in our front yard and birds of many sizes, shapes, and colours are dropping by for a snack. I have my favourites. I’m not a fan of blue jays with their harsh voices and aggressive attitudes, but they are so beautiful with their brilliant blue coats.
There were eight or nine of them in the apple tree the other evening. But by the time I set up my camera and lifted the window, they had disappeared; had done a dine-n-dash.
There are the regular chickadees that pop by for dinner, including one that uses the same whistle I use to call “Gracie.” I was considering a claim of copyright violation, but I’m willing to let this transgression pass.
There’s one regular visitor to the feeder that I’ve come to consider a friend (I’m not sure he is of the same mind). I’m calling him “Horatio,” though that isn’t cast in stone. Good bird names are hard to come by.
As a Hairy Woodpecker, Horatio has a longer and larger beak than a Downy and the pattern of spots on his tail is different. Horatio is a medium-sized woodpecker, that tend to be about nine inches in length, and thankfully is a species of little concern in terms of being endangered.
The number of Hairy Woodpeckers is significant (more than nine million in 2003) and his habitat is not considered threatened. So I suppose spotting Horatio isn’t a huge deal in bird-watching circles, but I refer again to my status as a “looker.”
The thing I like best about Horatio is his repetitive pattern of movement. He has a go-to spot on the apple tree in the front yard. He hangs first on to the feeder for a snack and then straight to his spot on the apple tree, where he drums his merry percussion tune.
Snack, drum, snack, drum. And his spot on the tree reminds me of those things we use for comfort: a toddler with his thumb, a man with his remote, a woman twirling her hair.
Horatio isn’t put off by many of the other birds, though everyone heads for cover when the Common Grackle flies in. Grackles are a bit sinister-looking and when they land on the feeder, they look like a teenager trying to ride a toddler’s tricycle.
A big crow sometimes waits under the feeder for the leftovers, but no one much worries about him.
Not everyone takes advantage of the free meal. Robins drop by to sit in the tree to discuss the state of the Canadian Senate, but still preferring their worms. The most exotic appearance we have seen is the Pine Grosbeak and the Baltimore Oriole; lovely birds, bright and flashy.
You’ll have to excuse me, Horatio is back and he’s drumming me a message with his Morse code.
I must take notes. I think he might be telling me some of the secrets of the universe.
wendistewart@live.ca

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