A few days ago I sent an e-mail to my grandparents asking if they would be willing to be interviewed for Backyard Safari. They moved out of their old house into an apartment a few years ago, and I know they watch the birds that come to their balcony. It is important to me to show through this blog that you don’t need to hike for 40 miles into uncharted wilderness to love and cherish nature, so I wanted to ask them how they first became interested in the birds, and what effect, if any, it had on their daily lives.
My grandfather responded with a beautiful e-mail that was so much more than I ever expected. It is an amazing window into his experiences for all readers, but especially for me as his granddaughter. I could never do it justice by paraphrasing, so I want to simply share what he wrote here in its entirety and let him speak for himself.
“As a child, I was probably only aware of and familiar with robins and sparrows. Later on, I grew to appreciate the beauty and coloring of the cardinals and blue jays, since they are easily distinguishable. Then when we lived [at our old house], we had a very interesting mocking bird. He would sit on the chimney of the house across the street and sing through his whole repertoire, occasionally jumping straight up about five or six feet and returning back down to the same chimney to continue his repertoire. This could go on for four or five minutes–and the strangest thing was he might even be doing it at 11 or 12 o’clock at night. During that summer, he also perched on the top of our garage and I would put pieces of apple or grapes on the back kitchen window sill and he would come and get them. After a while, if I forgot to put the fruit out, he would show up at the top of the garage and wait for his food. That was the most fun.
I guess I never got into the other birds too much until we moved out here–although we did have a bird feeder [at the old house] which your father installed safely on the top of a pole. So he fed not only the birds but my continued interest in them.
When we moved where we are now, your wonderful father put up the finch-food feeder and the hummingbird feeder on our deck, both of which have been feeding many birds since then. So you can credit your dad and mom for my continued interest. And last year your dad brought the suet holder and suet, so we have a third source for them.
I miss the mocking birds–we never seen any anymore here. But on most every day we do have goldfinches and purple finches, hummingbirds and cat birds, black- capped chicadees, cardinals, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and many sparrows or similar types, including the chipping sparrow. Still a few are a mystery. It all proves nature is beautiful and a part of God’s plan.”
My grandparents have created a wonderful little ecosystem a few floors above the ground at their new apartment. Thanks to their work keeping flowers in bloom and bird feeders full, they have a plethora of different kinds of birds that stop by, and as a result my grandfather can identify and enjoy a variety of species beyond what he describes knowing as a child. My grandfather was born in 1920 and grew up near a major city, in a time before all of the environmental education and nature camp efforts that are now in place. His life-long interest in birds, however, proves that the wonders of nature can many times speak for themselves.
I talked to my parents about this post and they wanted to make it clear that, despite the credit my grandfather gives them, they were only ever responding to his already-existing interests. The same way you would purchase a birthday present for someone based on what you already knew they liked, they enjoyed helping my grandpa with bird feeders because they knew he was already interested in the birds. This is a great thing to think about! Is there anyone in your life who might enjoy a bird feeder out their window or on their balcony? Even if they don’t have the initial interest my grandfather did, you might be opening up a whole new world for them with something as simple as a hummingbird feeder or a handful of birdseed. For that matter, you might be opening up a whole new world for yourself!
I hope my grandfather’s eloquent words can inspire us to take notice of all the beautiful things around us, to learn from them, interact with them, and make them a part of our lives! I hope it also inspires us to share these experiences with others, either in the form of an extra bird feeder, a bug box, pictures, or –you guessed it– a blog post.
Many thanks and even more love to Grandpa Backyard Safari for sharing these wonderful thoughts with us. I hope your bird neighbors give you (and us!) inspiration for many years to come!