Feathery Friends in the Backyard Bring Joyful Serenity

During these May days, alternating between pouring rain, sunshine, and the first hot temperature days precursor to a scathing Summer, I am enjoying spending more and more time on our deck. One of the reasons is the many birds that make the trees along the creek a rest stop on their journey through the city. Some are frequent flyers (pun intended), while others are only seen a handful of times during their migration. Their chirps, rattles, whistles, trills, croaks, drumming, and songs fill the air, rain or shine. When I close my eyes on weekends when traffic noises from the interstate half a mile away are low, it feels surreal to think all these busy and blissful sounds are amid the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States.

The lead-in photo is a composite of the most common birds I can listen to almost daily. Northern Cardinals get close and are curious. Carolina Chickadees love to bounce off my head or shoulders whenever I least expect it (it can be startling). The Red-bellied Woodpecker needs a hard hat when he starts building his next dwelling. The Tufted Titmice are mischievous and abide by a distinct pecking order. The Northern Mockingbirds put together a setlist of songs to describe their day – sometimes thrilled, sometimes worn out. Blue Jays bully all the others around due to their size and attitude; they will take on larger birds and even squirrels to make whatever area their territory.

House Finches, Northern Flickers, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-Breasted Chats, Chimney Swifts, Carolina Wrens, and American Robins meet regularly, exchanging animated opinions and ideas. At least, that is what I see and hear in my imagination. The occasional American Crow will shrilly announce its arrival, and one cannot help but cringe at the strident sound. A few times, while working in the yard with my back to the creek and the sun, I jumped when the magnified shadow of a Blue Heron in flight, cast on the ground in front of me, appeared suddenly. After realizing what it was, I could not help but laugh when the only thought that came to mind was scenes out of Jurassic Park. The right bird, at the right angle, in the right lighting conditions, will do that!

When the sun sets, Ferruginous Hawks will silently and majestically drop on top of their favorite trees; the best possible outlook perches they can find. Peacocks will rest in the trees and scream whenever something upsets them – their “kekā” sound is unmistakable and loud. Some nights, Eastern Screech Owls will mumble their presence, completely camouflaged against the bark of trees, hard to spot but easy to hear. As is common in Texas, the night surrenders to Great Horned Owls, cliff-chirping frogs, crickets, saw-whets, the occasional Brown-headed Nuthatch, and their racket. For many, the cliff-chirping frogs are a soothing white noise in the summertime, but it is disquieting and grating for me. Almost 30 years here, and I still cannot like them.

When the sun rises anew, the serene cycle repeats, with new and old feathery friends greeting the day and fueling heart and mind, prevailing on the metropolitan noise. Sitting quietly on the deck in the morning with a hot cup of coffee (regardless of season) is one of the things I love the most. It recenters me. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with me on the phone is familiar with the bird sounds that surround me daily. I always ensure the birdfeeders are full and the nectar is refilled for the hummingbirds. Countless butterflies and bees swing by to add color to foliage and get busy pollinating. And the soul brims with renewal. “Hope is The Thing with Feathers” is one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems. Have a beautiful Wednesday!