One school day afternoon during the onset of the pandemic, my seventh grade son joyfully announced that we would be building a bird shelter or feeder. It was part of a project for his science class with Mr. Yates, he said, and he quickly began investigating his options. While I’d like to say we accomplished our plan to build a box for the elusive Great Horned Owl that sometimes hoots nearby, we eventually traded this lofty goal for a purchased hummingbird feeder. The two of us constructed a makeshift stand from some wood pieces we foraged from our shed, and prominently placed it visibly outside our living room.
Mr. Yates’ project rekindled my childhood love of birdwatching, and it was a gift to experience it again through my son’s eyes. Like so many people around the world were doing at the time, we marveled daily at the songs of the birds that seemed more present than ever before. Bird watching apps were downloaded, and we aimed to meet the project goal of getting to know as many local birds as possible. It didn’t take long before the fuschia-throated Anna’s Hummingbird found the feeder and frequented it- first one, then several. When we needed to replenish it every few days, we suspended a second feeder outside the kitchen window, which quickly drew a new crowd. A Hutton’s vireo nested and laid three tiny eggs on our windowsill. We discovered the zany bird who ran across the driveway like a chipmunk with its tail in the air and sang wild songs from treetops was none other than the California Thrasher. The calls of the birds surrounding our home became familiar names as my son and I added our sightings to the cherished copy of Birds of North America I’d first begun as a little girl.
Maybe we’ll build that owl box one day, but for now, we’re content with the hummingbirds, the way that they don’t mind the roar of the garbage disposal or our close presence, and who seem to know we are allies.
- If birdwatching sounds worthwhile to you, check out the free app Merlin ID to identify birds by location, behavior, and calls.
- Follow cleaning protocols for feeders; Salmonella poses a serious threat to wild birds.
Lower School Science Teacher