January 2, 2014: I Miss the Birds

~by Virginia Rhys Anson, OFS

November 17 and, except for a flock of wild turkeys that occasionally pays a visit, nary a bird is in sight.  As if some mysterious force kidnapped the winged creatures.  Quite unsettling and very disheartening.  On this lovely fall day, my yard remains vacant of avian activity.

This has pretty much been the scene since mid-July.  Months shy of robins, sparrows, and blue jays.  Of orioles, woodpeckers, and mourning doves.  I have naked trees, but no feathered warblers to adorn them.  Their songs are absent.  Their romp I miss, their flit from limb to limb, from limb to font.  The bird feeder is ever so full of their delicacies, but no guests arrive to partake.  My backyard takes on the attire of a ghost town.

Why are there no winged callers?  No feathered brethren to inhabit my yard?  Why?  I am, after all, an excellent hostess, providing not one, but two feeders and a hummingbird banquet.  I gravely miss their grays and reds and yellows and blues.

Perchance it is coincidence that this summer witnessed the awakening of the cicadas.  It seems most plausible that their emergence caused my ghost of a yard.  Cicadas’ thunderous converse likely disrupts robin and jay and sparrow communication, leaving them vulnerable to predatory stealth.  Yes, cicadas’ robust volume did reach near deafening decibels.

I, however, enjoyed the cicada chorale.  Its evening chant, okay din, overflowed the dusk tinged air.  What a reunion must have been theirs, for a score less three years of underground hiding hold copious experiences to share.  Their short visit seems nowhere near ample time to catch up.  Catch up or not, after several weeks they succumb, once again, to a multitude of years’ repose.  Their gifts for my hospitality I discover upon their departure—the abandoned shells from which they emerged, remnants of our short rendezvous.

Once my cicada guests re-entered hibernation, I expected a return of my winged companions.  But, here it is nigh winter and only a smidge of birds have I seen, gradually to become none.  Such a phenomenon, rare though it is, is depressingly eerie.  Not one seed from the squirrel proof feeder (if such a critter exists) has met a bird’s beak.  My fidgety tailed tightropers have long since emptied the feeder that is theirs to raid.  The feeder that thwarts squirrel thieves still retains its full store of sunflower seeds.

Yes, I sadly fault the cicadas, if for no other logic than mere coincidence.  However, another culprit may deserve the blame for chasing my avian friends to other realms.

Perhaps the drought that has been our plague drove them to more verdant habitats.  Quite possibly, the unusual warmth of this fall, and soon to be winter, may have delayed migration of my winter boarders.  Whatever the cause, their temporary exodus seems interminable.

I hope, likewise, that no human-caused environmental plight has taken my friends.  It may be that global warming has tampered with ecosystems, instigating species’ relocations.  If the cause be human induced, then I fear my beloved guests have permanently vacated the feast that I have set for them.

So terribly do I miss my plumed kindred.  My soul longs for the melody of their songs and chirps.  The beckon of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, one for the other, eludes my waiting ears.  In kind, the sweet, delicate call of my cherished chickadees.  And, yes, even the bullying taunt of the blue jay and the squeaky voice of the grackle.

My yard seems nearly dead, lifeless without the flap of wings and tweeting chatter.  I am vacant.  A part of my spirit faded with their departure.

Tis my watchful hope that they are merely visiting surrogate havens, brightening others’ lives.  Their return is long delayed.  The vigil persists.  For now I must content myself with squirrel antics, with cricket choirs in eve’s twilight, with butterfly ballets amid sedum buds.

It is now December 4 and joy upon joy.  A small flock of juncos feeds on seeds evicted to the ground by pilfering squirrels.  Although only a spattering, could this be the commence of songed homecomings?  My fragmented nature spirit must believe it to be so.

Happy Dance!  Happy Dance!

Thank you, God.


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

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