Bird Meditation

When I can’t sleep, I often turn my mind to the birds who bless the area around our home. Ease comes quickly as I recall them. Exploring the land here, we have enjoyed re-encountering many of the same common species we knew at Foley Mountain. But there are differences of time and quality of surroundings. I want to mention that all the birds here are peculiarly tame, because they don’t encounter as many people as the ones in the park did.

Here are only a few of the birds who mean so much:

  • nuthatches A pair of whitebreasts were the first birds we welcomed to our feeder in the disorienting time after we moved to Singing Meadow. (Alas, without the dense coniferous woods of the park, we do not have the charming smaller, red-breasted ones.)
  • blue jays Some might say we have too many of these, but their flashes of blue in flight are like patches of sky on sullen wintry days here.
  • herons following threads of water, crossing from their nest pond, across the water meadow, over the creek to the bay where they do their noon-time frogging. Feeling, rather than seeing their shadows pass over me as I move about my day is an unexpected gift.
  • eagle Breathtaking, with his unmistakeable, powerful flight, he soars high over my vegetable garden, or on a mild-winded day, makes gentle, leisurely circles, travelling the length of the valley, before he journeys on to the lake. Working the thermals, he is air made visible.
  • red-tails Wonderfully, a pair of red-tailed hawks nest in the woods near the heronry, and soar each day on the thermals rising from our valley. After the sorrow of experiencing Merak the red-tail’s painful isolation because she was human-imprinted, experiencing the life of a mated pair is particularly heartening.
  • chickadees  whose vernal “phoebes” are the first glimmer of spring
  • grouse These explode from the brush, startling me back to mindfulness. And of late, the underlying pulse of their drumming echoes from the surrounding hills, the very essence of a northern spring.
  • Johnny Crow Admittedly, Johnny and his clan are too much of a good thing, yet I feel privileged to be part of his summer world. From now until the autumn, I see charming snapshots of family life as Johnny and his relations patiently introduce the spoiled infant crows to maturity, strutting and cajoling around our gardens. Simply thinking of Johnny’s outrageous behavior makes me smile.
  • loons To live where I hear daily their haunting, varied calls from the nearby lake is an answered dream.
  • pileated woodpeckers, and all the downie and hairy woodpeckers currently drumming in our valley. Their rapping reminds me of the music of the Kodo drummers of Japan.
  • gold finches The drab finches of winter, the males now a brilliant yellow, are accompanied by carmine house sparrows, flitting high through our trees, as vividly colored as summer itself.
  • mourning doves, so languorously preening high in the tree on sultry summer days, their cooing, not sad to me, but rather brooding, a song of peace.

About Peri McQuay

Peri Phillips McQuay is the author of Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations on her experiences living for 30 years at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk is the story of her adventures with Merak, a human-imprinted hawk, who lived free but saw McQuay and her family as her special people. Also Peri has written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. Her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick.
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