On the morning of my grandson’s second birthday, a falcon flew over the bird feeder. He was after a mourning dove. The dove, in a frenzy to escape, hit the glass door with a thud. That was probably what saved her because she fell dazed to the porch deck, and the falcon was going too fast to stop.

It returned to sit in the apple tree beside the deck, waiting, no doubt, for another chance at a meal. It sat there most of the morning. That gave me plenty of time to check out its identity in my field guide for birds.

That same day two ducks lit on the pond and, while they checked out the cold water, a great blue heron swooped down and poked around until it found a frog. Two days later, when the falcon was long gone, a scarlet tanager came to the feeder. It stayed all day and then disappeared.

I’m not sure the appearance of these birds had any significance for Sabien’s birthday, but they did signal the beginning of a prolific bird season. The feeders have been sagging under the weight of birds. We have three pairs of Baltimore orioles, two pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, an indigo bunting couple and zillions of goldfinches, sparrows and chickadees.

Swallows and bluebirds are building nests in the houses, and phoebes are building nests in the porch rafters.

When the weather is warm, I sit just inside the screen door, and it feels as if I am surrounded by them. Their conversations calm and uplift me. Needless to say I’m a bird lover.

I even like our chickens.

Chickens have a bad name they don’t deserve. True they’re not at the top of the intellectual ladder, but they’re not dumb either. Our chickens are happy free-rangers, and I enjoy watching them. The chickens snuggle down into holes they’ve dug and fling dirt up over themselves, all the while making soft clucking noises.

Then one day I noticed when I went out to fill the bird feeders, the chickens came running. At first I didn’t pay attention, but then the next day, here they came again. This time I watched as they scrambled after the spilled seed that falls to the ground. Obviously, the chickens have discovered that sunflower seeds taste a lot better than the chicken mash.

Donnie feeds them. Like I said, chickens aren’t dumb. Now when I go out to feed the birds, I throw a few handfuls down to the chickens.

Besides the five dozen we already have, there are five dozen new babies in the furnace room. They’ve tripled in size in the last few weeks, so it won’t be long before they can go out into the “big house.” This year, we also bought a few mallards and some guineas. I can’t wait for the ducks to get big enough to swim in the pond.

I haven’t always watched birds. Nor have I always cared much about the natural environment. I’m not sure if my love of the natural world came from living here in this beautiful state, from the influence of my friends, or if it was just a matter of gaining a bit of wisdom along with age. I’m not sure what was important to me in those tender young years. Mostly, I didn’t pay attention. I’m a “thinker,” and consequently spend a lot of time in my head.

I like to get to “the bottom of things,” figure out what happened and how things are connected. Maybe it has taken me all these years to figure out that we humans are connected to the natural world after all.

What I notice when I watch what goes on around me, especially the birds, is the order about the way things happen – growing and maturing and dying, and then starting over again. A season for all things. I am soothed and fulfilled by the harmony of nature.

In the midst of my reflecting, however, the thinker in me wonders why the human part of the natural world can’t exist in the same harmony as the flora and fauna. It’s a question I haven’t been able to answer. I guess there are some things we will never know. Not in this lifetime anyway. In the meantime, I will sit by my window and watch what goes on in the world just beyond my screen door and try to learn what the birds have to teach us.

Jeanette Baldridge is a writer and teacher who lives in West Paris. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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