Nature
11:12 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Poor Will's Almanack: April 5–11, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the second week of Middle Spring, the 19th week of the natural year.

Sometimes the day is quiet, and not a single bird visits the yard. Sometimes the sparrows are boisterous and feed all day. Other days they follow a fractal sort of pattern, eating in fits and starts, the lawn and bushes full of birds then empty, then full of birds again then empty.

When the sparrows and grackles move elsewhere for a while, grackles, cardinals, titmice, chickadees, wrens, blue jays, doves and nuthatches take their turns.

Sometimes I make notes about which birds I hear singing and which birds come when and how they act: the sparrows, like starlings, bound tightly to the motions of the flock; the acrobatic chickadees swooping in and out, staying only seconds to grasp their sunflower seed and fly off; the wary, fluttering titmice, the males calling through the mornings; the blue jays, harsh and bullying; the hopping, syncopated nuthatches, exploring upside down; the heavy, pushy, long-billed starlings and grackles; the slow and clumsy doves; the cautious cardinals feeding in the twilight; the crows that never land here but are present with their calls before dawn.

I watch them all without understanding what is really happening, or why they are acting the way they do. I do not follow a birder's schedule, have lost my life list, know only with glimpses, know with parts instead of wholes.

But watching birds, I watch my feelings. I can see that there is an emptiness inside me without the birds, a completeness and odd security in the presence of the birds. When I forget to feed them, they withhold their consolation. Bribed with seed and suet for their company, they offer comfort and reassurance.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the third week of middle spring. In the meantime, bribe the birds. Feel good.

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