A lot of you have discovered birds since you’ve been holed up at home, locked down with your mandatory family people. It’s a natural step. “I’m going to look at birds,” you say, on your way out the door, having run out of other pretexts, and nobody minds seeing you go. And then you’re out there. Might as well look at birds.

I was already looking at birds. What I’m doing for fun now, a half-year in, is looking at really ratty-ass birds. Jeez, they look sorry. Some of them, like the crows, seem to be properly embarrassed by the state of their wardrobe. We have a house finch with two unshed old feathers sticking up on her head like horns. What a crew. Patchy-bald and tufted as a sprouted potato: a lot of them look like an old weedy parking lot. You won’t catch me looking like that. As long as I stay indoors.

All right, I’m no prize either. I’m told I can get a haircut now without worrying about being dead in a month, but I haven’t done it yet. As a result I can now put all my hair in a ponytail again. Not the sort you might see on a pony–we’re more in toilet-brush territory. I could scour out a roasting pan with it, maybe.

Studley Windowson, my chickadee, though not vain, is not coming around like he used to. He’s good for a couple mealworms a day and thank you very much, but he isn’t stalking us at the window or leaving long whiny voicemails. His kids are on their own.

I must here report that Marge and Studley got a second brood going, in July! I’m not kidding. I looked it up and they’re totally not supposed to do that, but Marge must have been impressed with his prowess as a mealworm provider–our little secret–and sure enough that nest box was peeping again. And little diaper sacks were coming out of it. But fully realized birds? I never saw a one, and can’t report that this batch was a success. And yet. The Studmeister! What a neat bird.

And I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt his feelings, but here’s the deal. The Crow Project of at least ten years remains a bust. Dave has done his best to entice a personal crow and gotten absolutely nowhere. Our crows do not give one goopy shit about us. Everyone on the planet of any spiritual worth has their own crow but not us. However. Their cousins the scrub jays are looking like contenders. They like peanuts, and we have peanuts. We’re tossing them ever closer to us with some success. They’re still cautious, unlike their relatives, the gray jays. If you go into the high woods emitting so much as a cookie molecule, you will shortly be encrusted with gray jays. We think our city jays are coming around, though, and it’s fun to watch them dart in and blast off like little jet-powered tyrannosaurs. They are superb at hopping, and watching a good hoppity bird hop is a sure cure for the COVID blues. 

Problem is, I don’t want Studley to see me doing it.

Studley hates jays. I hate jays on Studley’s behalf. I wouldn’t even look at a jay after the Nuthatch Fiasco of Ought-Sixteen. Scrub jays act like they have no enemies (or peers). But the other day a bunch of them detonated out of the neighbor’s plum tree followed very closely by a hawk. That probably cheered Studley up no end. Take that, screech-heads!

But, you know? The screech-heads are fun to watch. And I know my chickadee. I can pick out his tiny little chip-note anywhere on the block. It sticks out like an errant apostrophe. I listen, I wait, and when the punctuation is right, down goes the peanut. Don’t tell.