Monday, June 13, 2016

Birds: Dark-Eyed Junco

So I wrote about the Eastern Towhee, the Shearwater, the Mockingbird, White-Throated Sparrow. Today I'm going to write about where it all started. One of my turning points.

I live in the city. The standard birds are robin, cardinal, and sparrow. House sparrow for the most part. Oh, and starlings, but once you've been down to my inlaws and see what damage starlings can do, you can't even count them as being a part of life here.

When London was getting to be an older toddler, I started to think about what school was going to look like for us. I was tempted to homeschool, and did for two years. I was heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason, John Holt (the educational reformer, not the reggae singer), Waldorf and Montessori methods. A major thing I realized I was missing was an awareness of the world around me. I knew a lot about a lot of things, but I had only a rudimentary ability to identify what was here and now and breathing the air with me.

I got myself a field guide to birds. If I was going to impart wisdom, joy, and curiosity, I should develop that in myself.

Robin, cardinal, sparrow. Robin, cardinal, sparrow.

I stand at the sink, washing up dishes. I look out the window, dirty on the outside from decades of spiderwebs, at the magnificent magnolia tree that emerges from the fence line like a hand reaching up to the sky. It is winter and the bones of this tree are crinkly old branches, beautiful and stark.

A tiny little bird sits on one of those branches. Sparrow, I think to myself.

But then I look again and see it.

It isn't a sparrow. Its head is dark gray-brown. Like as if a sparrow put on a nice smooth hood for winter to keep warm. It's a prettier shape, too, than the house sparrows all over the sidewalks of the business district south of my house.

What the hell is that bird? I think to myself, turning off the water in the sink. I sit down in the dining room with the Petersons Guide to Birds. I flip through it, thinking about the little bird's smooth lines and solid color. I find it easily.

Dark-eyed Junco.

I've never even heard of a junco. What's a junco? It doesn't even
sound like a real thing. I started watching them eating seeds and visiting my new feeder and being happy little birds in my favorite tree. I noticed, come April, that they were gone. And then I marked the day they returned in the depths of autumn.

I keep time with them, little hopeful creatures returning to my magnolia tree just when I most need a little bit of a change of scenery. We have slate-colored juncos here. But on a trip out west I got to see the Oregon version. I hear there are other color varieties as well.

They're no big thing.

But I see them.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen the western ones too! Very exciting. I have a friend who says she always notices when she first sees the juncos but it takes awhile to realize when they've moved on. It may have just happened...but I think I saw them last week!