Readers reveal their special encounters with birds

By Frances Wood

In this column last month I shared some of my magical moments with birds. This month I include some stories from readers about their special interactions with birds.

Their kind of music

The first comes from Sylvia Hollis: She says, many years ago, before I became an avid birder, I was staying in a little motel in Idyllwild, Calif., in the San Jacinto Mountains. I strolled through the small town, and stopped at a shop called the Emerald Forest. I bought a tape of beautiful flute music called ``Machu Picchu Expressions.''

Back at my room, I put it in my boom box near the window, which looked out into a Colter pine stand. A Steller's jay was sitting in a tree just outside my window. Shortly, he flew away. After a few minutes, he came back with three other jays who joined him on the limb and seemed to be enjoying the flute music. They sat there for quite some time -- not screeching or calling -- just listening.

Just in the neighborhood

This next story comes from Randal Gardner and proves that outstanding birding experiences occur in developed areas: He says, I thought you might like to know that our neighborhood has been the daytime hangout for at least two peregrine falcons since last Thursday. While I cannot see a nest, I have seen a pair of falcons in a fir tree that has a dead top. I have heard their calls daily since then, making me believe there is possibly a third or fourth bird in the fuller trees nearby.

Saturday morning provided quite a spectacle, Gardner related. As I was watching a lone falcon in this partly-dead fir, and searching for the source of the answering calls, I saw a large raptor take flight and begin to circle. In spite of the bright sun, I am quite sure it was an osprey, being too light even for an immature eagle. As the osprey began to circle the neighborhood, the hidden falcon took flight, and shortly thereafter the visible bird also left its perch.

Bold jays

It seems jays are often the subjects of bird interactions as in this story from Martha Burns. She wrote in that she just moved back to Mercer Island from Whidbey Island where the jays would come up to the deck railing and pick up the peanuts in the shell she would leave for them. The Whidbey jays were very skittish and wouldn't come in if I was standing at all close to the window, she related. Not so with the four jays here on Mercer Island. My first day here in August, I was sitting on the back patio and a Steller's jay flew down from the tree and perched on a stump in the garden not 10 feet from me, as if to greet me. It was not at all bothered by my presence. I began to set out peanuts and now it and three others come regularly up to the window to retrieve the nuts. I expect next I may get one of them to take peanuts from my hand. I'll let you know if I succeed.

Waiting for Mickie

Mickie Hilbert shared this story: I reckon my most magical bird moments were on early -- real early -- morning walks while wintering in a tourist park in Southern California. It seemed like the birds, mostly mourning doves, robins and kestrels, actually waited for me to come out and then would fly a bit ahead and pause for me to catch up. We also would ``chitchat'' (especially about a particularly beautiful sunrise, some of which were spectacular). I hoped no humans had their bedroom windows open and were listening as they might call the manager to have me put away!

As you can see from these stories, interactions with birds may be very simple and often brief. But they bring joy and awe into our lives and offer long-lasting memories.

Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson has described this connection to nature that Sylvia, Randal, Martha and Mickie have shared. He calls it ``biophilia'' and claims that we all have this love of the living. We have an innate need, a biological urge, to relate directly with other living organisms and the natural world.

Frances Wood is author of ``Brushed by Feathers: A Year of Birdwatching in the West,'' available at local bookstores. She can be reached at

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