It was that time of year again, with the camera kept near at hand, hopefully charged, ready to snap any flash of color that did not fit the shapes of our year-round residents. Orioles were flooding our yard with waves of flaming plumage; I saw seven bickering over space at the feeder in the rain one morning. IN THE POURING RAIN! Anyway. Migration season is one stream, joining up with the beginning of baseball and end of the school year, that flows into an exciting emotional confluence for me in the spring. But this year nature changed all of our plans, and two of those streams have been largely dammed up since the middle of March. Any hopes for a shortened baseball season beginning in July are dwindling. As for school ending, well, it was weird. I am a paraprofessional, and often work one-on-one or with small groups of students. Like anyone who works with kids hopefully does, I work toward forming meaningful relationships to help infuse their view of the world with both information and integrity. It is a job that I do not recall existing in my elementary school days (it probably did), but is immensely important to me now that I can see with adult eyes how inequitable society can be. So I communicated with my students and co-workers via e-mail, shared videos, and fumbled through Google Hangouts. It was nice to see familiar faces, but still felt so distant.
I was struggling with the lack of closure as the end of school approached. The likelihood that I would not see all of my co-workers or students in the same place again until August, if Covid recovery goes well, was tough to process. I realized that while we sheltered in place to flatten the curve of a pandemic, I also had to manage flattening the curve of emotions that came with these changes of course. Then birds began swooping in from the south. I have been interested in birds for as long as I can remember, from calling out my window to "pterodactyls" as a child (they were Great Blue Herons) to taking a field ornithology course at Highland Community College that focused on migration as we traveled through Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of southern Ontario, namely Point Pelee National Park. So I turned my attention to the outside when my inside world began to feel hectic. Watching for warblers and other tired travelers quickly became a leveler against the anxieties that can come with such an altered social landscape. Spying through binoculars as treetops and shrubby thickets bounced with squeaky floofs taking respite from their perilous journey helped me find some peace in this situation. Often different species of smaller birds will travel together in migration to help the group look out for food and predators which struck me as an analogy for how we operate respectfully through Covid. As more states open and we begin to happily flit about it is crucial for the survival of the population around us for everyone to practice the methods known to protect each other from this novel predator, just like those flying cotton balls that travel hundreds of miles each year. Mask up, wash hands, and social distance when possible so that together we can see a better way forward.
For anyone else struggling with changes caused by the Covid outbreak, do like Odis and take a slice of your free time to tune into nature. Phase out whatever ugliness may be in your life for just a moment. Whether on your back porch, a park down the street, or on your rooftop if it's suitable (please be safe!), just find that place where you can remember that you are consciously connected to the natural world around you. If that sounds like some kind of hippie mumbo-jumbo, take it from birder Jason Ward who on his YouTube show, Birds of North America, discusses urban birding and the peace he has found in bird watching with a diverse array of guest birders.
Keep your eyes peeled for more backyard nature posts on our social media, and let us know if there are burning questions that you need answered or content you would like to see from me and Odis.
Stay safe, friends!