D. Lopez, This week in the garden

Something dark and howling came towards me; instinctively, I had to bend down. The side of my face caught the slap of air as if, perhaps, I had just missed a collision. As I turn to look at the end of that fuzzy strip, I see a Coopers Hawk, with wings fully outstretched, hugging my dwarf lemon tree Myer. Something was gripped in its talons. The little screams subside and I tiptoe away from the crime scene. Songbird down. This is what happens to dreamers, lost in a stupor and dreaming of the next batch of flowers. My life in the garden is just like that, full of bird stories.

Gardening and bird life are synchronous. Without realizing that I created a five star resort for the birds, that’s what happened over the years. As gardens become seasoned, many unintended and intentional results can occur.

Don’t ask me if I’m a dog or a cat, obviously I’m a living person – thriving is an important message of the day. For now, let’s focus on the birds. Wild bird species are sensitive to biotoxins and heavy metals; their presence helps us determine many things: clean air, fertile soil or available habitat. Apparently that’s the case with me.

Sometimes it seems like my stories are taking place in a deep forest, but I assure you that I am one block from a red light; an ordinary neighborhood on the edge of the extraordinary. When a red-headed vulture watches us from a power pole, one can’t help but feel the sense of an unwanted omen, or feel lucky that such trust is happening.

What about the 12 generations of crows that respond to sign language and verbal cues from my family? It’s a true story. In 2010, a family of crows appeared in the trees near my house. From nesting in a cedar to an oak tree, they arrive every year to raise their young. We learned a lot. Baby crows have blue eyes and are taught feeding and flight lessons by their parents, usually in my backyard. How about the time a bird landed on my head while I was on my cell phone? I’m sure I looked funny, I should have photographed it. Birds!

Searching for evidence, it appears in the clever structures of nests. In a previous post, I mentioned how large, freestanding shrubs are ideal habitats for many small birds. In the middle of winter, the abandoned nests fall from their hiding places and I collect them. In my opinion, these nests are recyclable, so after sanitizing them in the sun, I will soak them in cobwebs to retie them and place them in deep shrubbery for reuse. Surprisingly, the birds love shortcuts and have even used the finches’ homes in the pet store. The hummingbird nest is probably the strongest nest I have ever come across. A precious find. Look carefully around shrubs, sages, rosemary, camellia, maples and oaks, if you have any.

Birds have their own sense of time. If there was a terminology for addressing local seasons, based on the arrival and departure of species, that would be a hopeful way to approach the calendar. Certainly, birds seem to view the garden this way for many reasons. Just as many bulbs and flowers appear at the end of winter and not in summer, birds appear, disappear and change color at certain times, they also begin or end nesting. Every living being has its unique cycle beyond the human calendar. Cyclically and reliably, owls make their incessant hoot at night in winter. The season of owl romance. It is quite a spectacular phenomenon when these different birds find refuge and food in their own garden.

As we review our photo libraries, we notice how the birds have become acclimated to us. When the hummingbird hovers over our face, we have learned not to close our eyes. The pineapple sage is his, that’s his statement. Songbirds swarm us because we are the birdseed rechargers under the young oak tree. We are the planters of seeds, the bearers of flowers, the bearers of bees.

Sometimes, our family “walks around the garden” to make new observations in our living and flourishing space. We wonder what has changed, what is thriving, what is a safe space for nature. More often than not, the answer comes in the form of year-round birds.

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