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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

The serenity of birds

Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2011, at 12:15 PM

Sometimes I like it quiet.

When the din of the surroundings overpowers me, I want to close my ears and drown out the noise.

In restaurants and stores we hear the ringing and dinging of cell phones. In places where televisions are for sale, all the sets flash in unison as they cry, "Buy me, buy me."

Our society is overwhelmed with electronics that produce lots of noise. Boom, boom, boom.

Our cars blare out that we've left the keys in the ignition, and beep when we neglect to fasten our seatbelts.

Even in our own homes, we are enveloped in annoying sounds. In my kitchen, the refrigerator dings a reminder that I've left the door open too long and the microwave beeps four times to signal that the food is ready. Washing machines agitate and whirl, dryers tumble, and dishwashers make swishing water noises as they fill and empty. Vacuum cleaners whir and clocks alarm. (My daughter's wall clock makes various bird sounds every 15 minutes.)

It is in these times I withdraw and enjoy the peacefulness of birds.

In my kitchen while I work at the sink, I look out the window and watch the birds eating at the feeder or drinking from the bird bath.

Birds congregate there all during the day.

No, there aren't as many birds as there were in early spring, but they still congregate at their "watering hole."

There are the redbirds, a pair of them, and a couple of doves, and sparrows, and chickadees. Often a robin will drink at the bird bath, then decide to take a dip, splashing and throwing water into the air, as it dips one wing, then the other, under the water.

Then it flies to the nearby fence and shakes its wings, much like a dog shakes water from its coat after a bath.

Doves, too, drink from the bird bath and eat at the feeder.

There's just something tranquil and soothing about watching the birds God created.

God tells us to "consider the birds."

"They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds."

It's true that birds have no storeroom and because of that, I like to give them a helping hand, especially in wintertime when snow covers the ground.

I try to keep my birdfeeder full and the birds seem to appreciate that.

Right now there is one lone gray squirrel that also helps itself to the seed.

I know it's the same squirrel because it has a peculiar misshaped tail. The tip end of the tail is twisted, as though it has been run over by a car.

The same squirrel has frequented the feeder all summer.

But it's the birds I like to watch.

Some species seem to interact and get along well, while some won't tolerate another bird trying to feed at the same time.

Sometimes a bird or two will perch on a nearby tree branch and wait its turn at the feeder.

I do miss the bluebirds. At one time, there were dozens of bluebirds living around my country home. It was relaxing to watch them as they built their nests, laid and hatched their eggs, and taught their fledglings to fly from the nest. The males were orange and white breasted with brilliant blue wings and head.

It was because of my interest in birds, that my son became interested and involved.

But he "specializes" in hummingbirds.

To begin, he bought several Fred's feeders that he hung on a porch near a window. Soon the tiny hummers began to gather. Then soon there were too many to count, dozens of them vying for the sugar water my son put in the feeders each day. He soon added more feeders which attracted more hummers.

In all, there are 356 species of hummingbirds with 15 types found in the United States. Nine species have been identified in Arkansas.

Among those in Arkansas are the ruby-throated hummer, the Calliope, broad-billed Rufous, and the black-chinned Hummer. Anna's Hummer is the most unusual one because it has its own "song". The tiny birds measure from three to five inches. And they are gorgeously arrayed with metallic feathers in brilliant shades of green or blue or gray.

Another hummer found in Arkansas is the Magnificent Hummer which is identified by its size. It is one of the largest species of hummingbirds found in Arkansas, and in the United States. The male has dark green feathers covering its back, purple feathers on its forehead and crown as well as gray feathers on its breast. The tail feathers of the male are tipped with pearl gray.

The smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird which measures about two inches in length and weighs 0.06 ounces. It is native to Cuba.

The bee hummingbird is, yes, you guessed it, about the size of a bee. The female lays two eggs no smaller than coffee beans and the nest is no larger than the cup of a doll.

I think that anyone who pilots a plane might be interested in the dynamics of a hummingbird. It can rotate each of its wings in a circle or in a figure eight, allowing it to perform unusual maneuvers. It's the only bird in the world that can fly backwards. It also flies sideways, up or down or upside-down, or sit in sheer space.

It often hovers while feeding and can start from its perch at full speed, and doesn't necessarily slow up to land.

A hummingbird eats a lot of nectar. If we ate as much as a hummingbird, we would eat about 30,000 calories a day. It expends a huge amount of energy each day and must eat enormous amounts, or starve.

Despite all that, the wee bird lives roughly 15-20 years.

No bird is more exquisite than a hummingbird.

They are a joy to watch. And they don't make a loud noise. They just hum, quietly.

And that's a nice thing in a world of clamor....



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From these hills
By Peggy Johnson
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