Backyard Birding in the Time of Social Distancing

By Lindsey Hernanadez

As it has become for so many, home is it for us. No visitors, no play dates, no going to school. Recently, I even stopped going with the to kids parks and preserves. With so many people not working and gyms all closed, the quiet spots and trails are no longer quiet. And my children, three of them under five, don’t understand social distancing fully. Instead of moving away from the rare stranger, they become dazed at the appearance, not sure if another person is really there or if this is a vision. They are oddly drawn to them, much like moths to the flame.

“No, no. We are social distancing. We must all do our part by staying 6 feet apart,” the stranger will say in the friendliest voice, trying to subdue their panic that with each step backward they take, my 4 year old is taking two steps toward them.

We are home nearly around the clock. While maybe the walls on the inside creep upon us, the back and front yards, which we are very lucky to have, have sprung to life with fierce swaths of vibrant green and bugs of every kind. Of course, with this bloom, the number and species of birds has also blossomed. The robins, the cardinals, the blue jays and grackles, the Yellow-rumped Warblers, the Titmouse and the Carolina Wren feel very much ours right now, making regular appearances hopping in our grasses, singing from our fences and flying to different trees.

“Mom! The female cardinal is at the feeder,” my four year old yells, and the rest of the family rushes to the window. We stay, silently watching with our faces pressed against the glass until the bird flies and we’re sure the male cardinal can’t be seen.

“Bird!” is a frequent call in our house, and in the past several weeks of quarantine, the call has increased.  Often, my two year old gives the call, and my four year old rushes to the scene to give a more in depth description.

“Mom! There are two common grackles walking around our garden right now!” And everything to do with birds is always a shout, because this is exciting, this is different. This is better than FaceTiming with people; the bird is real and tangible.

“Our wren finally showed up,” I’ll tell my husband, reassuring him and myself that all will someday, somehow be right in this world because a Carolina Wren sang to me from the back fence.

We stand with our faces to the sky watching flocks of Cedar Waxwings fly from one neighbor’s tree top to another’s. The family came to a standstill for ten minutes when a Cooper’s Hawk was spotted in the neighbor’s tree, a Cedar Waxwing clutched in its talons.

During this time of quarantine, we’ve all become like moths in my family, and the birds our flame causing us to stop everything and watch what our dear friends, the birds, are doing now.