Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

December 2015

Vol. 43, No. 6

Musings from the Blind Birder: Brewing Habitat for Birds

Martha Steele


Magnolia Warblers have been found wintering in shade-grown coffee plantations. (All photographs by Sandy Selesky.)

On a recent and glorious late September day, I sat on our deck at our Vermont home, enjoying the solitude and the warmth of the morning sun on my face. I heard the ubiquitous Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee, but this is not a particularly exciting time for a blind birder. Most bird vocalizations in late summer and early autumn, if any, are of the challenging, chipping variety. Still, I revel in the vicarious pleasure of listening to Bob’s reports of what he saw during his regular morning walks around the property. Migration back south is in full swing during September, and we never know what will be in a mixed flock feeding near our house.

As I sat there, eyes closed and listening to the jays, chickadees, and an occasional chip of a Yellow-rumped Warbler, I was jolted from my seat with the nearby and beautiful full song of a White-throated Sparrow. I wanted to hear it again and again, but alas, it did not perform an encore before we departed on our own southward migration to Boston.

The sparrow may have been a migrant in the midst of its journey, or it may have been a resident that would stay the winter, sustained in part by winter feeders. Regardless, its announcement of its presence moved me deeply, as birds often do. Readers may now know that I often talk to birds, wishing them well here in their northern breeding grounds, during their amazing migrations, and in their southern wintering grounds. In this case, the sparrow seemed to be talking to me, signaling its farewell until next spring.

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