When I tell friends in the US about the “British things” I like or do when in the UK, I get reactions like eyes widening (or rolling) or raised eyebrows. Drives home the reality that my lives on either side of the pond are VERY different, and this oftentimes makes my interests on one side of the pond sound quite incredulous to people on the other. But I always say “vive de difference” as it is always difference, diversity, even incongruence, in life that makes things inviting and fun. The latest thing I have developed is (get ready for this) BIRDWATCHING. In Chicago, I don’t get the chance to see the variety of birds that i can when in our little village in the UK. I can tell you though that at any one time when I look up the sky in the Windy City, I can see at least 3 planes flying northwestward over Lake Michigan, en route to Ohare International. Mechanized flying things that roar, not quite as graceful as birds and their songs. And so I started noticing these feathered friends from those daily look-outs from the window by the kitchen sink here in England, and hearing their tweets and calls. What a refreshing treat. Not long after my father-in-law gave us a colored poster of common birds (pull out from a Sunday paper) which piqued my curiosity even more. Add on a day at Caernarfon Castle with the RSPB (Royal Society of the Protection of Birds) selling (and me buying) lapel pins of a host of bird species to raise funds, and the serendipitous £1 find I got from a charity shop (RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds by Simon Harrap) the very next day, and there we have the perfect storm of the birth of a new hobby.
Over Christmas, Hubby bought me a pair of binoculars, specifically, a NIKON PROSTAFF 7s 10×42. They are not the typical small little things that birdwatchers can thrust into the pockets. More the type you hang on your neck while you move around. They feel “substantial” — which I like, because they have more the feel that you’re holding a piece of equipment rather than a toy. The best part of it is that it is lightweight, for all the power it packs in.
I keep on the window sill the RSPB pocket guide, and a more expansive “Birds of Britain and Europe” by Rob Hume. I like that both books either describe the bird voice/sounds or illustrate their flight pattern. Both books also provide a cross reference to confusion species or similar species. I also have a small notebook where I have begun to note down the birds I have seen and where. For now, I think the most special one I have on the list is the Great-Spotted Woodpecker which honored us with its presence when it came for the bird-feed pellets we have just put out. With his bold black wings decorated with little white dots, and a bright red crown and under tail — what a beauty. We now have 3 feeders in the backyard, and we like to think it has become Blue Tits Central in this little neighborhood. They fly together, and oftentimes we have finches, blackbirds, chaffinches, robins, starlings, chubby wood pigeons and even the odd pheasants joining in there party. I am so looking forward to more of these glorious feathered creatures, in number and types, coming over in the spring and summer.
“…I keep looking for one more teacher, only to find that fish learn from the water and birds learn from the sky.” ~ Mark Nepo (author, in “Facing The Lion, Being The Lion, Finding Inner Courage Where It Lives”)