My Mixed Flock

Lessons from birdwatching during the Coronavirus

Author’s photo. My mixed flock includes tropicals!

I have been feeding birds in my yard for years. Now that we are all staying home, they have begun returning the favor by feeding my soul.

The mixed flock that visits my front yard includes a wide variety of birds. We get visited by bluejays, tufted titmice, nuthatches, juncos, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, chickadees, finches, doves, wrens, and of course, Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. They all eat happily together, sharing resources.

We occasionally have a flock of red-winged blackbirds show up. When that happens, our lone grackle acts like it is part of the flock and chases them away, banging with its beak on the side of the feeder as if it were a gorilla beating its chest. Once they are gone, the grackle returns to one of the nut feeders, leaving the tray for the smaller birds that prefer to eat from it.

In the coldest part of the winter we saw a red-bellied woodpecker hungrily snacking on the items I had placed in one of the tray feeders. The red bellied looked hungry — starving really. It was thin and scrawny and came back to the feeder over and over, flying away with chunks of the protein rich treats. I made sure to refill those items daily and was rewarded by seeing the woodpecker return every day for a couple of weeks, looking healthier every day. Eating from a tray feeder like that is not the norm for this type of woodpecker, and true to form, once it was no longer fighting starvation it stopped coming to the all day buffet in my front yard, although it can still be seen from time to time in woods in the back yard, snacking on suet.

I’m learning from the birds.

I’m learning to sit quietly, and enjoy their presence, with nothing else needed. Their music, their color, their cheerful chirping, is all I need to make me smile.

I’m learning to enjoy the beauty of each tiny bit of nature. My little piece of nature isn’t a majestic mountain, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s all that my mixed flock needs to survive and thrive.

I’m learning that there is strength in diversity, and we really can all get along.

Most of all, I’m learning that when we nurture one another we will get past the hard times together. Spring is springing here in New York, even in the midst of the pandemic. My red-bellied woodpecker is likely finding a mate even as we speak, and the finch committee has issued a quorum call.

Author’s photo, the finch committee

They know the future belongs to the strong, and we are all stronger together.




A Bowl Full of Lemons is a publication that is focused on the lessons learned from the pandemic and the ways in which our lives have changed. The focus will always be on moving forward with joy while honoring the loss and challenges of the past.

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Writer, poet, gardener, life-long learner, warrior for children, lover of faerie, freedom, and joy. She/her/hers.

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