There is a letter to the editor in today’s (Monday) StarTribune. A reader who lives in and bicycles around Minneapolis writes to express concern about the birds he is not seeing or hearing. That is a reason for concern, and for bird species with declining populations it is a real concern.
Not all bird species are in decline, however. Official annual surveys of bird numbers, like the yearly Breeding Bird Survey, a citizen-science project, show that. And too many factors play into perception. Location. Weather. Season. The noise people make in the city.
Courting birds sing. When nesting began in our yard we went pretty silent. Reason for song had passed. Reason for quiet — nest predators — had arrived. Chicks hatched and activity at our feeders almost stopped. Seed eaters were finding insects for their chicks, full-time. Next, some of our migrant visitors, the species that come north to nest, began their fall wander home. Nesting finished,they left town. I haven’t seen an oriole in weeks. Don’t expect to.
The chickadees, House Finches, goldfinches, grackles, jays, and some blackbirds have returned to the feeders. Cardinals are still singing. Ditto House Wrens, way behind on courtship.
I just finished a book ("The Meaning of Birds" by Simon Barnes) that made clear to me that I write too often about bird population problems — climate, habitat, cats, windows. If there's a reason for fewer birds, actual or potential, I’ve written about it.
There are other stories to tell. I saw friends from southeast Minneapolis this weekend who told me about the Merlin streaking through their neighborhood this summer, a nester they believe, and a hunter of their feeder birds sparrows.
A woman I often see at the library will tell me stories about the bluebirds nesting in a box in her garden. And the woodpeckers in her yard. She is all smiles when she talks about birds. All spring and into summer.
Two of the ladies who total up purchases at the grocery store where we shop often visit with me about the birds they see. My grandchildren in Plymouth keep me informed about the chickadees nesting in the tiny church-styled box near their front door.
My dentist has told me more than once about the bluebirds nesting in his backyard.
Admittedly, if you know what I do you might want to talk to me about birds. But, these people are not making this up. They do see birds.
Hardware stores, birder stores, some super markets, lots of stores, have shelves stacked with bird seed and feeders. Someone is buying these things.
The gentleman on the bike, the letter writer, has raised awareness with his letter, a good thing. We need to pay attention. But if you sit quietly in a park for an hour it might look different. Birds are not everywhere. Never have been. It certainly is not like it was 20-30-40 years ago. But, there are birds to be seen and heard. At least that's what some people tell me.
Begin the habit of looking.