Some people are very competitive in their birding. Maybe they’ll die happy, having seen a thousand species before they die, but I’ll die happy knowing I’ve spent all that quiet time being present.Lynn Thomson
It’s Birds in Backyards week, here in Australia, and I have elected to take part by spending twenty minutes each day silently observing and counting the birds I see around me.
This precious twenty minutes is a chance to slow down, to disconnect from screens and work, and to tune in to the natural world, using nothing but my eyes and ears and a keen sense of curiosity.
I’m in the city this week, and before I started this survey I wondered if I would even have any birds to count. My home has a rainforest garden of tall trees and palms in the back yard, and several bushes and smaller trees along one side and in the front yard. It’s not a manicured and curated yard. It’s a yard that still has many of the trees that were here when we first bought this home nearly thirty years ago. But our street of older homes is currently a noisy construction zone, with several homes being extensively renovated, and where all of the trees within those yards, as well as every blade of grass, have been completely removed. Other recent renovations feature lots of concrete and stone and lawn, or hedges of mock orange and a few structural agaves in pots. I’ve been mourning for the street it once was, with established large trees, and old-fashioned gardens that were full of small and larger birds, insects, flowers, and small native animals. Where will birds nest now? What will they eat? I’ve been thinking about this as I go about my day, and I observe the city I was raised in becoming increasingly urban, and losing more and more green spaces.
I am happy to report that I have seen birds every day. Since Sunday I have already submitted three checklists, logging 13 different species, and a total of 70 birds sighted. In our neighbourhood there have been a total of 18 checklists submitted so far, with 36 species recorded and 627 birds sighted, although I am sure some of those birds are repeat sightings of the same animals. There are far fewer small birds. The ones who lived here when I first moved to this neighbourhood – the sparrows, silvereyes, fantails and wrens – are long gone. There are not enough safe places for them to nest anymore. There are fewer lawns or school yards where grass goes to seed, fewer flowers and fruit trees, and fewer insects for them to eat. But we still have larger birds.
One of the things I have noticed, as I log bird sightings, is that I am becoming more mindful of, and tuned in to, the natural world. I am more aware of the grass or cement or pavers beneath my feet, of the breeze or sunlight on my skin, of the sound of the wind in the trees. I am more aware of the birdsong, and the small movements birds make as they sit within the branches of a tree, almost invisible if you weren’t paying close attention.
As I watch for birds I am also seeing lizards, bugs, ants, beetles, and other small critters. There is life everywhere. And this fact has buoyed me immensely.
I have also noticed that I am seeing the same birds each day. These are the birds who share my space. My avian neighbours. Winged families, like the Magpie adults with their two fledglings who come down to drink out of the sprinkler head on the front lawn each day, and to dig for worms.
It has made me more determined to do what I can for my avian community. I can plant more trees and shrubs that provide food and shelter. I can put out bird baths. I can let the dandelions grow in my lawn, and avoid using chemicals and poisons in my yard.
We belong to a much wider community than the community of humans. It’s time that all of us thought more about what we can do to be better citizens within this community. Please give some thought to what small efforts you could make. I also highly recommend taking twenty minutes out of your day, wherever you are, to observe nature and become more aware of who shares your neighbourhood.
Love, birdsong and peace, Nicole xx