By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
I have transformed the kitchen window from a barren, dish washing cubicle into a bird watching haven. As a former bird handler and rehabilitator, I’ve found that birds not only are intriguing to watch, but the simple act of observing nature has immense healing qualities.
We live in a vast ecologically diverse state, from floodplain forests to high elevation forests and grasslands to marsh habitats. To much of our delight, because of the diverse ecosystems in the Bluegrass state, there are, in all, 375 species of feathered friends who have been recorded to have visited here and about 150 species who raise their young right in our backyard.
As a teenager, I’ve had the pleasure of raising an American kestrel from fluff to feathers, teaching a poult to fly and find its gobble, and help an aging red tailed hawk cope with only having one wing to fly. I’ve helped trim a bald eagle’s talons that carry 10 times the strength of a human, wrap a barred owl’s injured wing and force feed a screech owl that’s no bigger than the size of your palm. No matter how much I nurtured or helped heal birds, they’ve always seemed to provide a sense of unspoken healing and wonderment for me.
Since moving into Mrs. Huff’s tranquil home, I noticed an anomalous silence that pervaded throughout the walls. Apart from many house plants, I felt there needed to be more life surrounding this wonderful soul. So, I bought a bird feeder.
First, a true southerner made its debut outside the kitchen window, a cardinal. Along with that cardinal came another, its mate. Cardinals are known to be monogamous, so with a life expectancy of about a year, I’ve decided to call the intrepid couple “the honeymooners.” Joining in the pecking order with the scarlet two was a red-bellied woodpecker and yellow-bellied sapsucker — whom I mistake as the woodpecker’s baby all the time. Then a family of chattering Carolina chickadees took up residence feeder-side with one feisty little purple finch that looks more pink than purple. I believe I’ll call the purple finch Lisa Frank for my own senseless amusement.
Just about everyday a new bird will make its debut outside the window pane, scoping out the scene and hopping cautiously to the lip of the feeder. After they pick out a prized piece of seed, they each make out like a bandit, especially the cardinals who always steal the show for Mrs. Huff.
Since the feeder, I now wake up each morning to the calming chorus of bird chatter and song. The two of us now can enjoy spending time in the kitchen more and find excitement in catching sight of a new species to behold. To my delight, I’ve passed on my bird watching habits and love for nature, which encourage not only contemplation of grace and simplicity, but also peace-of-mind.