Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

Giving Me the Bird


By Deb Quantock McCarey


Me and birds.


We have a love, hate, love relationship.


It started with a child’s curiosity.  Moved to fear, and then spiraled downward into aversion.


Remarkably, now it has become pure appreciation.  Bliss, really.


Let me explain.


When I was a toddler, my mother kept parakeets, and the story goes that early on the pet birds were the reason I suddenly lost the central vision in my left eye, and why it went lazy. 




After that, birds were banned from our house, and the subject was closed, except for that outward eye.  It was fixed twice, and stuck at age 13.  Just in time for high school.  Thanks, mom. 


Even so, it wasn’t until age 23 when I began slowly losing the central vision in my other eye, that that myth was dispelled.  That's when I was told by a highly respected ophthalmologist that I have a rare form of juvenile macular degeneration called Best’s Disease.  It had nothing to do with bird droppings at the bottom of a gilded cage. 


It was genetic.


We were told that Bests is the best rare eye disease one could have, if they could choose it.


Those docs were right, and I am doing fine.  Great, actually.


But that is another story.


Let's  get back to my formative years, when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s chiller, “The Birds”, and never recovered.  Even now when I spy lots of birds gathering on a power line, I quiver and take cover.  Or, at least move to the back porch for a better viewing, where they can’t peck my head, or attach to my hair.  


Here is that imagery in one minute and 40 seconds:  



After that, the fear of birds followed me through life.  It began festering at age 23 when a friend cajoled me to watch her huge cockatoo for the weekend.


It tried to bite me. 


Bad bird.  For the next three decades or so, my fear of birds took flight. 


So, of course, I did have lots of friends who loved birds.   


They let birds, big and small, fly free around their houses, eat at their dinner tables, and land on their shoulders or heads. 


I told them they were were cuckoo.


When it happened, I took cover…until last year, at age 54 when through work I met some quirky bird men, and wrote a story about their adventures.


It was like I molted, and everything changed.


I bought a bird clock, which my older sister says is kitchy and annoying,


But, what does she know.  Ha!


Then I found some resources, mostly focusing on learning birds by ear.  I don’t really like Wikipedia, but this is pretty good:


Last summer, I added bird feeders to our edible garden area, and finches came again and again.  This year, we are still waiting.





This year, in my garden I have more feeders, and in a raised bed I am growing flowers that attract birds.  Check this out if you want to do that, too:


But today was my Seminal moment, the one where birds became my friends.


I went on a bird walk with a pro birder and other bird enthusiasts at Washington Park in Chicago. 




They saw lots of them:  several varieties of warblers, red tailed hawks, red-eyed vireos, cowbirds…a bird whose song ended with a meow, hence it’s name, catbird.


Nope, I didn’t see any of those birds, but I did see a barn swallow gathering twigs for a nest, and a grouping of goslings, and a Green Heron, I wasn't quick enough to catch on my iPhone.








So…are you thinking, what's up? 


Well, birds ,of course. 

Meh… getting up at 5:30 AM to make a 7 AM bird watching start time miles from here isn’t all that cool, though.


 Seeing birds in my backyard is.





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