Exciting, huh? I know. Most of you are probably thinking about the old stereotype of the birdwatcher - little spinster lady in her pith helmet, binoculars and guide book in hand. It's not like that for me. I watch the birds from my desk since I have a study on the second floor of our house. I can't identify all of them, but certainly a good portion, and to me, they're not just pretty little backyard friends.
They're dinosaurs. They're creatures with an alien and often inexplicable intelligence. They're often calculating and ferocious, little warriors with wings. See, pop culture has it that the dinosaurs were wiped out when a meteor hit Earth. That certainly did cause a mass extinction, but it wasn't the planet's first and certainly not the last. And while many larger dinosaur species were wiped out in the cataclysmic impact and climactic events that followed, certainly not all dinosaurs vanished. They're all around us, in the trees, in the marshes. Your children are feeding them at the duck pond right now!
Birds. Stronger and stronger evidence suggests that birds evolved directly from dinosaurs. They're still here. Not only that, so many of them are scary smart. Crows and ravens, parrots and magpies have demonstrated problem solving skills, reasoning skills in experiments. They will use tools, when necessary. They construct solutions to problems. If you've read Temple Grandin's work, (the animal behaviorist) she talks a lot about African Gray Parrots and how they often learn things we don't realize we're teaching them.
My science curious mind finds them fascinating. My author mind finds them a source of endless speculation. My primitive hind brain finds them a bit unnerving sometimes. The thrill as the red-shouldered hawk swoops in to roost in my pine tree for the night. The strange knot of fear when an owl calls on the roof (for the record, most owls don't hoot - they shriek and scream.) The wonder as red flashes of cardinals work together to drive crows from their nests.
They are beautiful. They are strange. They are aliens among us and I adore them.