I am a bird fancier. We all are in this house, really. We have two woodpeckers, Thelma and Louise, who have lived in our back yard oak tree for years. And yes, they are both female. I spoke to a bird expert at the university and he claimed that he had never seen two female woodpeckers living together.
"They mate for life," he said, "And a female woodpecker would never allow another one in her tree."
I told him to come to our house sometime.
Bing likes the woodpeckers, me not so much. Especially when I have a headache. All that hammering.
Liv has always liked the robins and the cardinals. We have a bluejay pair who sit on our balcony and actually canoodle. He is very protective of her, will swoop away in an instant and then return with a fat worm for her and while she eats, keeps a close guard, his beady black eyes looking fierce, his chest puffed out like a bluejay bodybuilder.
But, I like the sparrows the best. We have a lot of them and they make such a clatter in the morning. I go outside with my first cup of coffee, wearing my robe, barefoot, and sit on the top step, sipping and listening. Smiling. Their song is high pitched and lovely. Sometimes a cardinal comes to join the chorus and all the shy sparrows leave.
But, I like them still. They build sturdy nests and are not foolish as robins sometimes are. Every year, a robin builds a nest in our gutter and every year Bing removes it. Sparrows are little workers. Once, when Liv was a baby, there was a terrible rain storm and the next day, I found a beautiful nest on the ground. I picked it up gently and admired the artwork weaving of branches and twigs and then tears sprung in my eyes as I saw Liv's fine blonde baby hair and my nut brown hair intertwined in the twigs. Whenever I cleaned our brushes or combs, I always let the hair in them fly out to the wind, as my Da taught me.
Let's give the birdies a present," he would say. "They love hair, they use it to tighten up their nests."
I'd never seen it before, but that day I did.
I set the nest back down and waited for a few days, but of course, nothing happened. What did I expect, a gaggle of sparrows to come lift the nest together and put it back? No. They were already hard at work on a new one. The nest sat on the ledge above our kitchen sink for months. I would take it down a few times a day at Liv's request. She thought it lovely too.
I have an owl friend. No one believes me, but I do. When I come out with my coffee, it is just barely lightening outside. He stands quivering in the oak branches above me, very high. If I peer, I can sometimes find him, sometimes not. He is excellent at blending. I always throw my head back and call, "Whoooo....whoooo....whooo." It takes a minute, but he usually returns my call in a deeper, more dignified tone.
Whooo. Whooo. Whoooo?
And then there is a flutter of branches and he is gone home to sleep the day away. I've told Liv and Bing about him, but when they are with me, he never calls back. Ever. It is just for us.
I have never named him. It just seems wrong somehow. Like he is above it in some way. He is just the owl.
I sometimes worry that he misses me on weekends, but I like to think that he understands that no way am I getting out of my bed before 9 a.m. on a weekend.
We have whippoorwills too. But they only sing their songs at dusk in the summer time. And it does sound exactly like their name.
A friend told me that it is unusual for them to migrate this far, but even she can't deny their song. She's come over and listened with me on a few sultry summer nights.
Still, it is the sparrow who owns my heart. They are so cheerful and earnest. Their song is simple, and they don't show off. They just sing because it makes them happy, I think, and they want to say hello to everyone in their own shy way.
I start my weekday mornings listening to this: