© Copyright Chuck Bealke, 1999
I have always liked birds. When I was five or six, robins built a nest and raised a family on a window ledge at about the level of my eyes on the other side of the glass. Seems like the nest was finished before I noticed it behind a normally closed curtain, but I did lots of watching after that. I can still remember the feeding, growing and early flights of the young birds. Mind you, young naked baby birds are all open mouth and none too romantic. But they were hatched, raised, feathered, and gone in a few weeks. A couple of years after that, I tried to keep alive a barely feathered blue jay that fell from a nest. Didn't work despite some professional advice I got by phone. My whole family was disappointed, if not surprised.
Really got to know birds a lot better when we moved to my grandfather's farm. I had a lots of winged company in the fields when I mowed or plowed. These were industrious types looking for a meal unearthed or scared up by the tractor. I particularly like to hear Meadowlarks on a Spring morning. Mourning Doves, seemingly more wild then than now, and Quail were all about the farm. My best education on birds (and many other of God's creatures) came from a wonderful neighbor, Francis Cella. Francis was a bachelor whose farm adjoined ours to the East and knew each bird well by sight, call, and habits. He was well read, took a liking to me despite the endless questions I fired at him, and would walk over to our farm house after church on Sunday mornings for social visits. He first advised my father on types of bird feeders and feed to use, and in the Winters would watch with us from the house as our heavy avian traffic came to eat. He supplied names and information on the many species that we drew. Aside from the usual Sparrows, Cardinals, Jays, Chickadees, and Titmice, we would also get shyer visitors like Downy Woodpeckers. Francis taught me by example to look up often and listen and thus widened my knowledge of winged friends considerably.
The prettiest birds that came to our St. Louis County farm were Eastern bluebirds. You would only catch occasional glimpses of these splendid but small creatures as they passed through, but I savored these moments of delightful color. We always had Barn Swallows in the barn, and on Summer evenings they put on endless darting aerial performances - snatching mosquitoes and other insects from the quiet air. They are pretty birds and a delight to have about the place. We also had a couple of species that were not so nice. The English Sparrow, champion befouler of uncovered car tops and farm machinery, was frequently an annoyance, and the Shakespeare lovers' curse upon us, the nasty Starling, loved to build nests where they would cause trouble if undetected - like on engine manifolds. If only we could convince cats that these two are the only winged species worth grabbing.
Because there were creeks and woods on two sides of our house, sunny Spring mornings were alive with bird song of variety and volume. For me it a joyous welcome sound. I like the yearly return of known song and find myself wondering at unknown sounds that inevitably join in. Birds take little but add a lot of color, variety, sound and simple joy to the world of the farm and beyond. They are a wondrous gift.
Click here to share your comments.