A few years ago I received a birdfeeder for Christmas from my mother-in-law. It was a high-tech feeder, and looked to be expensive. It was weather-proof, squirrel-proof, and even Starling-proof. I was excited. I set it out on our back deck, attached to the railing, dangling over the lawn. I filled it with seeds and waited for the birds.
But no birds came that first day.
I was impatient. Every time I passed the window I looked for a visitor but I was disappointed each time. The brand new feeder hung there lonely. It was winter. Gray skies and barren trees framed the solitary, lifeless birdfeeder with the anticlimax of stillness.
A little chickadee broke the silence on the second day. How he knew about feeders and about this food, I didn’t know, but he appeared. One by one other birds followed. Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Dark-Eyed Juncos, House Finches, Eastern Towhees, Sparrows, Woodpeckers…they all came out of the woods for this wintertime feast.
I had no idea so many species of birds existed in general, much less around my backyard. I was immediately fascinated with the variety. I even bought a birding book and documented each new visitor. With nearly 30 species located, I was becoming an enthuiast.
But then something happened. Or rather, something didn’t happen. No new birds came. I exhausted the list of possible backyard species. What birds I could see I had already seen. Birds continued to come and go, but no new species appeared. The mystery and thrill of locating new birds was fading. The conquest was over.
Slowly, I filled the feeder less and less frequently until it sat empty for months at a time, still dangling in its place off the deck over the lawn, a forgotten cause, a lost relic.
This year with the leaves fallen and the cold air settling in I again fill the feeder. But this time something is different. I am different. I am a few years older, and I simply want to see the beauty of the birds against the gray sky backyard. I do not care about the novelty of birding. I do not care about spotting new species. I am content without conquest. I am at peace.
A sign of maturity? I hope so.
By the way, as of today, no birds. But I am fine waiting. How about you?