Last Sunday morning, my wife and I were still in bed sleeping (ahhh, the joys of the children getting older), when my daughter (who turns 7 today; happy b-day girlfriend) started yelling from downstairs. Even in an early morning stupor, I could tell from the scream that we weren’t being robbed and no one was bleeding. It was more of a “get your ass down here and check this out” scream. And my daughter is not one to cry wolf; it was probably worth checking out.
Turns out, there was an owl on top of the swing set in our backyard and everyone managed to catch a glimpse of it except me. I was too slow. But like the well schooled children that they are, they attempted to grab the camera and take a photo. Unfortunately, the owl had already disappeared at that point. And I know that it wasn’t a child’s imagination at work here, my wife confirmed that it was in fact an owl.
This scene has become commonplace of late, where we spot an animal through the sliding doors in the kitchen and out into the backyard. It’s as if the doors are framing this beautiful shot of nature at work.
Before that, we had the wandering pheasant:
There is a rule in the house where if someone sees any sign of animal/creature/prehistoric thing, they must let out a loud screech which signals all of us to drop what we are doing and head to the back of the house. It get the kids all excited and it is an awesome opportunity for us to drop some education on their impressionable minds.
And then today it all clicked in my somewhat limited brain stem.
I have been trying to encourage the kids to join me in my gardening ventures
, telling them “if we plant these perennials, the eventual flowers will attract hummingbirds” or “this tree, with its many berries will encourage the birds to visit” or “this dense tree will allow birds to lay their eggs in peace”.
The focus was on the shovel and digging of the hole when it should have been on “look at this amazing hummingbird” or “isn’t that a cool looking bird” or “let’s watch the momma bird protect her newborns”. Maybe getting to know how the story ends first is the best way to get them to understand how we get there.
And that is your deep thought for the day.
But seriously, my next move is to walk the kids through all of my photos from this past year and show them just how many creatures wander in and out of our yard. I think they will be shocked.
My son will be impressed with the House Finch and the fact that they were introduced to the east coast through New York City back in the 1940’s (or so the Internet says). Or even the fact that the male is the “red one”:
My daughter would love to know that it is the Robin that lays all of those beautifully colored eggs:
Maybe now they’ll understand why Dad ignored their stories about school in order to hunt down the elusive Eastern bluebird:
I’ll encourage them to wow their friends by reeling off the little factoid that this isn’t a “Red Headed” woodpecker but a “Red-bellied” woodpecker:
This thing is just ugly as sin but we can’t ignore the fact that it takes care of all of the roadkill for us, and that is an underrated task:
We can all rejoice in the fact that I finally got a somewhat decent shot of the Ruby-crowned kinglet:
I can teach them all about the benefit of native plants and how they provide an environment that allows our winged friends to thrive:
We can all practice imitating the tune of the Catbird:
And won’t they be thrilled to know that the American Goldfinch is the state bird of New Jersey:
Even I forgot just how many birds I’ve tracked down this year. Good for me!
I really think I found the key to eventually get the kids to dig all of the holes in the garden for me. It starts with the birds and other wild animals and eventually makes it way back to what we need to plant and why.
Well played John … well played indeed.