One of the things I try to do for my children since they don’t get the luxury of seeing a lot of wild animals is cultivate their knowledge of birds since that is one wild animal we have in the city. On our freeway drives, we count the number of hawks and falcons we see. Even though we don’t often know if we’re accurately identifying them since we are moving past them without binoculars, I like that we’re cultivating eyes to see the unexpected. The great thing for us is after years of looking for these birds, they’re no longer unexpected. In fact, we spotted a rare osprey just this week resting on a 605 interchange lightpole.
So as bird watchers, we decided to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell lab of Orinthology. It is an international event where people submit birds seen for an allotted time. On Saturday, I lead a group of girl scouts in El Dorado Park where we saw a Green Heron, something I hadn’t seen before.
Our morning at El Dorado wasn’t enough so we spent some time in our backyard in the afternoon capturing some of our birds as well as submitting a bird count. My daughter captured this hummingbird, which I think is a male Allen’s Hummingbird.
Then I captured this vibrant one, which I think is a Rufous Hummingbird but I’m just not sure so I didn’t put this one in our bird count.
What I’ve noticed over these last couple days, is that I long for a familiarity of birds, which I do not have. I cannot get clues by their sounds, flight wings and shape because I’ve mainly used color and some shape before. I cannot use those former clues because they aren’t familiar to me. However, I can spot a deer, coyotes, and large birds like hawks and eagles from far distances (though nothing compared to my dad who I swear has a bionic eye) because I’ve been spotting them my entire life. It’s a habit so to speak that I’ve developed.
In the same way, I long to become so familiar with my internal feelings, thoughts and dynamics that when they show up, I can readily identify them. I’m just beginning to see the fears inside myself that keep me trapped and disempowered. I’ve also just identified a lack of assertiveness that impedes my ability to speak up in certain situations, oddly, it’s most often with strangers. For me, having a certain familiarity with these internal feelings (or events) allows me to respond differently. It allows me to speak into my fear and act from a place of empowerment. It also allows me to recognize times when I’m self-preserving rather than stepping out in vulnerability. I believe it is absolutely crucial to have self-knowledge in order to change and develop new ways of being. We are too self deceptive to merely trust our instincts or guts.
I’m grateful for the Backyard Bird Count. It caused me to take time to observe nature and in turn notice how easily I could identify the familiar and how difficult, and at times impossible, to identify that which was foreign to me. I think within myself I need to pause and observe more often than I’ve realized in order to live my best life. If you have time, sit in your backyard and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count at www.birdcount.org thru President’s Day. Just maybe you’ll learn something about birds and yourself.