Sometimes the back yard is more active than others. Today is a wet, gloomy day. I’d describe it as Novembery, except that it’s now December. The trees are bare except for a single red or bronze leaf hanging on. The grasses in the garden are tufts of dried blonde blades. The perennials are brown, scraggly, and spent, with broken stems sighing towards the ground, and piles of papery, wind-blown oak leaves caught at their bases.
I slept until well after the sun was up this morning. Maybe this is why I saw different activity than I do on weekdays, when I’m up before the day is. When I came out of the kitchen with my coffee, I saw wings in the air over the garden. I stood at the sliding glass door, hands wrapped around my mug for warmth, and watched. Blue jays swooped from bird feeder, to branches, to the dead lawn. Tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, and a checkered woodpecker took turns darting from the branches of the oak to the bird-feeder that hangs from the limb closest to the house, where we can watch it from the deck in summer, or through the glass door on wintry days. At the top of the hill, a bright red cardinal perched on the wet wooden fence. He was a scarlet burst of color against a backdrop of tangled, dripping, brown bramble. He sat and observed the garden, turning his red-crested head to watch gray squirrels bound across the lawn, and beige mourning doves bob their heads as they strutted between the desiccated mums, and blue jays intimidate everyone with their large, cadet blue bodies and wing-spans.
My lead at work is from Bulgaria, now lives in Berlin, and she loves birds. On a recent trip to New York City, she was excited to see, in Central Park, birds that she’d never seen before: American blue jays, tufted titmice, and American robins. I told her, I see those almost every day in my garden! They’re so common to me, I hadn’t thought about them being exciting. Similarly, when our team met up in France earlier this year, I was delighted by magpies. I don’t see magpies of any type where we live, much less the Eurasian magpie, and they’re beautiful! They have clean white bellies contrasted against a black breast, head, and long tail, and their wings are iridescent, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Meanwhile, they’re apparently as common in Europe as blue jays and robins are where I live.
As I stood at the back door and watched birds swoop and trot and peck and oversee, and enjoyed their pops of blue and red color against the dreary landscape, or their brown, gray, and checkered camouflage to blend with the same, I saw my back yard birds with new eyes. They’re common to me but they’re not common everywhere, and I’m grateful that I can stand with my mug of coffee in the morning, in my PJs, in the warmth of my home, and watch them be in the world.