Spring Migration Mini Fall-Out! Exotic songbirds in my own backyard

For the past 26 years I have lived in central Massachusetts. A bird watcher, I have sought in vain to find that “sweet spot” where the spring migrants congregate. I need not search any longer: I live in that sweet spot!

Two years ago, across the street from my house, I experienced what experienced birders long for: a fall-out. A fall-out is when large quantities of warblers of many varieties descend on a particular area – they literally “fall out” of the sky. This happens when a cold front blocks the migrants and then a sudden warm front ushers them in. People that bird watch regularly may experienced this phenomenon a few time in their lives; those of us that do it “on the fly” may never experience it. During this fall-out, I saw over a dozen different varieties of beautiful warblers, all singing. It was paradise!

This morning I awoke to a small chorus outside my bedroom window so I ran outside to take a look. This is what I heard and/or saw:

8 warblers

  • Yellow Rumped Warbler (1st row, 1)
  • Yellow Warbler (1st row, 2)
  • White-eyed Vireo (1st row, 3)
  • Northern Parula Warbler (1st row, 4)
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (2nd row, 1)
  • Black Throated Green Warbler (2nd row, 2)
  • Chestnut Sided Warbler (2nd row, 3)
  • Black and White Warbler (2nd row, 4)

Considering that I live on the railroad tracks at the intersection of Route 140, this is a pretty good sighting! My mother always did say we lived in a fly zone (where birds tend to congregate).

jesus a pilgrimageLast night Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of the new bestseller Jesus A Pilgrimage, offered the following evening meditation:

“How curious are you about the world around us, about God’s magnificent creation? Are you as curious as you were whe you were a kid? The world is just as beautiful, mysterious and surprising as it was when you were little.

Think of something that captivated you today by its beauty or strangeness or mystery. Then thank God for the ability to be amazed.” (from his Facebook post of May 13, 201)

Yes, I am amazed. Amazed how You graced me with this fall-out of exotic songbirds into my humble backyard.  Amazed at how You keep sending me gifts unsolicited, just because You love to shower Your children with love Amazed at how blind I can be to the constant stream of such gifts.

It occurs to me as I am writing this that this is also a gift of consolation. I have a series of disagreeable doctor visits coming up, starting today. Nothing dire, just things that need attention and that could be painful. And I am a chicken! Now I can remember the beautiful songbirds God graced me with this morning to cheer me during these visits.

Thank you. You are always with me.

Lord, keep my eyes and ears open today and everyday for the gifts You send me. Amen.

Do you enjoy bird watching? Have you ever experienced a fall-out? What did you see?

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No longer a daughter but blessed to be a mother – Happy Mother’s Day

mommy walnut hill yearbookMother’s Day has been problematic since my mother died. I am sure other daughters who have known a close with their mothers experience that special tinge of melancholy that greets this day.

We are no longer daughters. But we are still mothers even if we don’t have children of our own. There are “children” in our lives from our nieces and nephews to friends in the neighborhood or students at school if you are a teacher. Many of you likely mother pets as well.

Mother and daughter
Mother and daughter

I am blessed to have two grown children of my own. This year my daughter Meredith gave me a gift that will assure that this holiday will have sweet memories along with the bitter. For every pang of grief I feel at missing my mother I can reflect upon the beautiful memories Meredith gave to me this mother’s day simply by giving of herself.

She took me yesterday to Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, MA, just a short drive from her home. Serious birders from around the world know the reputation of this cemetery as being a mecca for the observation of the spring migration. Dozens of species of beautiful songbirds, most of them warblers, spend a couple of weeks at this picturesque and historic cemetery before moving northward to build their nests. The cemetery has trees and flowering bushes from all around the world; a perfect haven in the middle of the city for these migrants.

mt auburn 05-2011Birders have flocked to this cemetery since its inception; our family did as well ever since I was a little girl. It was our way of celebrating Mother’s Day since it was my mother who passed along her love of birding to the rest of us.

Meredith had never expressed any interest in birds but she is the keeper of the flame when it comes to family tradition. Rooted deeply within her, it prompted this special invitation to enjoy the birds, flora and fauna together.

Although we arrived at mid-morning, there were still plenty of birds to spot (experienced birders usually come at the crack of dawn). We saw or heard several warblers including the Tennessee, Yellow Rumped, Black Throated Blue, American Redstart and the Ovenbird. We also heard or saw the Warbling Vireo (heard) and the Scarlet Tanager (saw, thankfully). We saw and heard a small flock of Baltimore Orioles.

tennessee yellow rumped black throated blue redstart ovenbird

We lucked upon a robin’s nest at eye’s view full of babies. There were several turtles at Willow Pond sunning themselves including a baby on top of its mother. There was a turkey nestled on top of a mausoleum tucked into the hillside of the Dell; we think she may have been sitting on a nest for she was very still.

A Tom Turkey, all fluffed and fanned out, strut his stuff in front of three females. He was fat and haughty-looking and the ladies paid him no mind at all.

turkeys

We also took the time to look at the stones. As I suspected, Meredith found them fascinating. She does not find death to be morbid. She is blessed in that way (and in many ways). We read many of the fascinating stories on the stones and kidded around about how only the “rich and famous” (or as I said, the rich and historical) were buried here. She appreciated the scenery and took many pictures.

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Meredith has inherited my mother’s thoughtfulness. Her gifts to me get better and better each time. This latest one took some effort and sacrifice but not as much as I would have thought; she enjoyed our excursion as much as I did and kept mentioning that she and her boyfriend should take walks there. She was interested in looking at birds, fed by her appreciation of the family tradition. It has become sacred to her as it has been to me. To share that appreciation together was the greatest gift of all.

Since she has been living on her own, our relationship has changed. We have more in common now that we are both keeping house. Now that there is some distance between us both in time and place, there is a renewed closeness. The card she gave me for Mother’s Day was most indicative of that. It was a serious card, not overly sweet but very meaningful. It stated in a factual way the way she felt about me and I will treasure it always. I half-expected a joke when I opened the inside because she loves a good laugh and when I mentioned that to her boyfriend, he chuckled with understanding.

There is no greater gift than the gift of oneself. The time and effort that Meredith put into this year’s gift will not be forgotten. She is merely carrying on the tradition of my own mother who also gave of herself in such wonderful ways.

p.s. I also have a wonderful son who just left me a touching and funny tribute on Facebook. Thanks Stephen, you’re the best!

I hope that all of you have a Happy Mother’s Day too!

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