The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
William Wordsworth, from Lines Written in Early Spring
My father taught me to recognize all the varieties of birds in our little Southern town. I had to know their names and gradually learn to identify them by their songs. Later I learned some of the scientific names. In the third grade I was given my first Roger Tory Peterson Field Guide to the Birds. Later a beautiful leather-encased telescope was under the Christmas tree.
Occasionally a baby bird would tumble from its nest in one of the redbud trees that lined the side of the house. This was an opportunity for my parents and grandparents to go into action. They taught me the value of all life at an early age. A special drawer in the old Victorian side table would be opened, and out would come rolls of gauze, toothpicks for splinting tiny legs, and eyedroppers for filling open beaks with my grandmother’s special recipe. A shoe box with leaves and soft rags would be called into service, and the period of rehabilitation began until the little patient could be returned carefully – with everyone on the lookout for the mother bird lest we be revealed as the dreaded humans – to its brothers and sisters.
How much happiness the early lessons have given me all through my life – pleasure of both the eye and the ear.
For help in identifying your backyard birds and their calls, click on Audubon Guide to North American Birds.
For modern advice on what to do if you find a fallen or injured chick, click on The World Bird Sanctuary.
Copyright © 2015 Jill Teresa Farmer. All rights reserved.