By Kseniya Tuchinskaya
The world is upside down but the House Finches outside my window don’t know this. Every morning, I eat breakfast in our kitchen nook, which looks onto my neighbors’ overgrown fence. And every morning, the finches show up to keep me company. I love seeing their bright red heads bob between the purple flowers and fresh green leaves. I love their cheerful song. My binoculars stay at the ready on the empty chair next to me as I sip my tea.
I worry that one day, my neighbors will catch me with my leopard-print bathrobe and binoculars, staring intently through the window. It’s a strange time, so I hope they’ll allow me this eccentricity.
Now that I am working from home, I have become very familiar with the rhythms of our local birds. In fact, I know them better than any neighbors I’ve ever had. Because there’s no need to catch a train to the city, I wake up without an alarm. Instead, the first sound I hear is the Bewick’s Wren chittering in the yard over. Sometimes, the resident Scrub Jay joins in as well, which is a clear sign it’s time to get up and make my morning tea.
There’s the pair of resident California Towhees, rummaging around our cars in the driveway (I see them every day, and I am convinced that soon I’ll be able to recognize them by face alone).
There’s the female Anna’s Hummingbird who comes around in the morning, without fail, and sits on her favorite skinny branch, preening. She visits at sunset, too. I like to think she’s enjoying the pink sky after a long day of flying and foraging. I see this hummingbird so frequently that I have asked my husband to help me brainstorm a name for her (suggestions, readers?).
Sometimes, I’ll catch a glimpse of the Bushtits as they bounce around on their morning rounds. White-crowned and very round Golden-crowned Sparrows take their turn as well, if the finches are away.
I am not used to spending this much time inside my house, or within 2 miles of it. I’ve known my neighborhood only in relation to myself as a human, but I’ve been discovering that it’s a bird neighborhood, too. If I pass a certain tree on my block near sunset, there is sure to be a an American Robin in it, singing its evening notes.
One corner is the Mockingbird hub, where we recently saw some diva behavior as a Mockingbird aggressively chased a nonplussed crow further and further down the block. There’s a Black Phoebe that lives by the local high school. Western Bluebirds stand out next to the lemon and orange trees that dot this neighborhood.
We haven’t seen our human friends in weeks. We pass and wave hello to the birds.
The first time I was consciously aware of seeing a Western Bluebird was a year and a half ago. My husband and I had just started our birding hobby. That day we still only had one pair of binoculars to share. We had no idea which birds were common and which were rare – before we got into birding, I thought there were 10 or 15 basic birds. A Western Bluebird seemed impossibly exotic, but there it was, perched in front of us on a park sign.
Part of the excitement of that early period was that almost every bird was new to us.
There are no exotic birds in our neighborhood, but it doesn’t matter. In these days and weeks when everything is in constant flux, we take comfort in the familiar. Cozy sweatpants. Warming soups. And the rhythm of familiar wildlife: the resident towhees, the visiting sparrows, the singing finches, the vigilant hummingbird.
Stick around, friends. We’ll get through this together.
Kseniya is a writer and newbie birder. She is a Bay Area native with Russian roots, and more than anything, she is looking forward to exploring Bay Area nature again once we are all free to wander outdoors. If you’d like to help Kseniya name her darling female Anna’s Hummingbird, please send name ideas to our Communications Manager, Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will forward naming ideas to Kseniya!
We want to hear from you! Have a shelter in place birding story you’d like to share on our blog? Email your 800-1200 essays to Melissa at email@example.com. Wishing you joy and peace through birding.