If there ever was a good time to be a birder, this is it.
Birds are not threatening. They are not frightening. Birds are a sure thing — known, reliable, certain and captivating.
You can enjoy them from a window, from your car, in your yard, on a walk. All by yourself, or with a small group, all of whom can easily keep their social distance.
Spring migration is just beginning. In coming weeks, millions of birds will be doing exactly what they’ve done for millions of years. No surprises. You can count on birds.
I look out my window as I’m writing this. It’s a gray, rainy day. The pair of mallards that live on the pond in our backyard ignore it. Water off a duck’s back. They do seem like lucky ducks.
These birds are preparing for courtship and nesting. Lucky ducks.
Some mallards arrive, splashing when landing, then wiggle their tails and look for corn.
A pair of geese call loudly, coming and going. It’s reassuring to hear them.
In a tree across the street, I notice a large stick nest. I don’t remember watching any construction activity there. How did I miss that — days and days of birds flying back and forth with sticks?
My wife and I decide the nest belongs to a pair of Cooper’s hawks. The following day, as I leave the house for a walk, I see a pair of Cooper’s hawks fly in and perch near the nest.
Seeing the hawks and their nest gives us a sense of hope. We’ll keep an eye on that nest every day, looking for signs of hatchlings.
That soon-to-be-filled nest is what I want to think of when I wake up, go into the kitchen and pour my first cup of coffee. I peer out the window, and somehow I feel a little bit better.
I watch our feeders, too. The birds entertain us by doing what they’ve always done — flying in and out in twos and threes, blackbirds and chickadees and juncos. Three woodpeckers try to deal with their dominance issues at the suet feeder.
We can rely on this. It will not change. And it’s so blessed ordinary.
Yesterday I walked the empty golf course where I tend nest boxes. I had to clean out the boxes in preparation for spring. I prop open the access panels to the boxes in fall to keep the mice out. But mice are clever, and terrible housekeepers with bad toilet habits. I often have to clean and mend the boxes.
I’m glad to have something I can actually fix.
As I walked to the course, I discovered a spot that looks suitable for woodcock, my current birding passion. I plan to make plenty of visits to that spot, which involves little more than my car and a predawn awakening.
The birds are out there — in your neighborhood, in your yard. They don’t know yesterday, they don’t know tomorrow, and they don’t care. They have the luxury of actually living in the moment.
We can join them. They are here when we need them most.
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join his conversation about birds at startribune.com/wingnut.