Watching Bird TV

watching bird tv: Flicker, Courtesy Pixabay
Flicker, Courtesy Pixabay

Two American Robins and a Northern Flicker Drinking from a Bird Bath Copyright © 2012 Linda Kervin Two American Robins and a
Northern Flicker Drinking from a Bird Bath
Copyright © 2012 Linda Kervin

bird tv: Chickadee Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay Chickadee
Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay

There are some days that I just don’t have it in me to get outside. Maybe it’s the winter blues; maybe it’s exhaustion from a full day’s work. Either way, there are days where all I want to do is sit in the shelter of my home next to the heat ducts, or under the shade of a porch, and just exhale for hours. Sometimes, getting into the thick or exploring one of the many unmapped nooks of Utah’s majesty just isn’t happening.

I used to feel bad about this. I have but one life, one short blip of time upon this earth, I should be making use of every second. Whether it’s laboring on an overdue chore, or out testing my grit in harmony with Utah’s character, I need to be doing or I am dying; wasting the one life I am given.

It took me some good time to not overcome this mentality, but see my struggle with new eyes: to wash them and see the world fresh. My ablution began by asking a simple question: how can I love the still wild land that has provided for my family, my nation, my species for millennia, even when I don’t have it in me to go out and commune with it as I know I should daily?

The answer for me was to find a way to appreciate and give in such a way that allows me great joy and relaxation, yet fulfills that higher narrative which only the world beyond human influence can provide. My answer was watching birds at my small backyard bird feeder.

While it may not sound as exciting as fording a river while carrying my dog, or submitting a mountain that still holds on to deep winter snows (again with my dog), it gives me a chance to still learn about the cut of my jib, to see what character I’m made of, and to see my place in the world, in creation, and in life.

I test my grit upon the stillness of my mind when cheerful chickadees begin to see me as a part of the scenery and perch ever closer and closer to the branches above me, or my honest acceptance when rackets of starlings come to steal the suet left out in hope of a Stellar’s jay or lost mountain bluebird, or my reflection on where my body will one day go as scraps from my last hunt are eaten by the local neighborhood magpie clan.

This is an activity I have dubbed Bird TV for those who will often find my attention turn suddenly from conversation with them to quickly confirming the flicker drumming on the feeder’s home tree marking its stake. Through the lessons of my wild neighbors and in my observation of them, I can still hold true to myself in seeking to commune with the real world daily. By watching Bird TV, I can learn the calls of different species, notice when they change with the food supply or weather, and reflect upon my place within this world and within this life, no narration but the sounds of the real world, alive and vibrant in front of me.

So when you don’t have the energy or time to be upon the land from which has given life to your family, our nation, and all species, consider setting out sunflower seeds, nuts, raw meat, or even jams for the birds. Set them someplace you can catch yourself noticing who’s visiting out of the corner of your eye through a window at any moment, and if another human asks as to why you’re being distracted by a what’s outside and not by the usual glowing rectangle, just let them know that it’s Bird TV. Invite them to watch too, and catch them up on what’s been going on in the world. Hopefully then they’ll learn to tune in too.

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah.

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center,
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster,

Additional Reading

Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University,

Axelson, Gustave, 30 Years of Project FeederWatch Yield New Insights About Backyard Birds, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, January 11, 2017,

Senior Bird Talk

Senior Bird Talk:Belted Kingfisher, Courtesy US FWS, C Schlawe, Photographer
Belted Kingfisher
Courtesy US FWS
C Schlawe, Photographer
What about birds? Why are they so alluring, so beloved by so many? Perhaps it’s their extraordinary beauty, their fascinating behaviors, their presence in our deep history and art, their ability to mimic us, their high intelligence and remarkable ability for flight, sight, agility, navigation.
Whatever the reasons, the bird is the word!

It was never more apparent than when I visited an assisted living facility for elders in Logan, Utah where I was invited to deliver a 45 minute presentation. As I entered the room, a young lady had them riveted with a bird trivia quiz. Then came my turn. Many were in wheel chairs, others with walkers, some seated with staff assistance.

I opened by asking them if they had a favorite bird, or bird story to share. A diminutive lady of Indian heritage and telling accent told of her mother’s favorite- a parrot which lived on her shoulder and would chat away as she went about cooking and housework. Later in the session she had another story. As a young girl she was eating a sandwich when an raptor swooped down and snatched it from her hands, leaving a slice that left a scar which she attempted to show me.

When a lull occurred, I asked if anyone had ever been called “bird brain”. Several raised their hands with a sheepish giggle, as did I. I lavished them with trivia on the remarkable neurological design that allows a tiny bit of high quality, tightly packaged neurons to perform the amazing feats birds are capable of. Beyond this, how bird brains can change form for breeding season activities and when half brain sleeps and half awake during migration.

Another filler. I paraded bird skins and nests from our locals for bird ID and notes of interest. The hummingbird and nest was an immediate hit, as was the stunning Bullock’s oriole with its nest made from horsetail hair and fishing line. The common snipe was of special interest. “How many have been on a snipe hunt in the night?” Many hands raised. Then I showed the bird, a far cry from what they imagined this mystery animal to be.

A woman near the back shared another story of a family parrot which had some unseemly language to share with guests, could miraculously escape from most any cage, and dismantle whatever it pleased- a brilliant, very mischievous bird.

Another bird of special interest was the kingfisher. Holding it in my hand, I shared an intimate experience when a kingfisher slammed into our window (since successfully installed bird deterrents). Thinking the bird dead, it later awakened in a cardboard box I had placed it in, and was released in fine flying form. A day later, it reappeared on my deck rail, looked me in the eye with a gratuitous head tilt as if to say “thanks Jack!” and flew off. Most unusual behavior for the kingfisher!

I learned much from my audience that morning, bird love, great story telling, and new friends- I hope to return!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah!


Images: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

“Legacy House” in Logan