Do people in Heaven watch what we’re doing here on Earth?
If so, my mom is in Heaven, weeping.
After raising five children, finally – when it was just she and my Dad – Mom had the time to look around and figure out what her interests were.
She discovered one of those interests was birds.
My parents had down-sized and their house had a small back yard, but a creek ran along the back border and beyond that – an open field.
The area attracted birds, both migratory and permanent, and after Mom installed a half-dozen seed bird feeders, the bird population noticed.
Mom bought binoculars and several bird books to help identify her guests, and she consulted with experts at supply stores about which birds preferred which seeds.
She also installed a hummingbird feeder, taking it down every few days to thoroughly clean it before refilling it with precisely measured sugar water.
How Mom loved sitting at the big window in the family room, binoculars in hand and bird books at the ready.
“Bob,” she’d say to my Dad, “that’s a ruby-throated hummingbird! A male! Our first one this year!”
And Dad, wanting to please her, would look and nod and share her excitement.
The hummingbirds arrived in the spring and departed in the fall, unlike cardinals, which were year-round residents.
“There’s a cardy-guy and gal!” as she called them. “I don’t see them together all that often.”
Then there were the ducks – mallards, male and female, and oh, they were greedy! Not content to scoop up the seed the birds had dropped on the ground, the mallards waddled up to the glass patio door and – are you ready? Tapped on it, demanding more sustenance!
The first time Mom put food out for them – she was a bird lover, after all – the ducks showed their appreciation by eating, and then shitting all over the patio.
After that, Mom’s response to the ducks was:
Every once in awhile, just as late afternoon turned into twilight, an owl would land on the back fence. Mom would reach for her binoculars and confirm what she already knew: “Bob, it’s a great horned owl! Isn’t she beautiful?”
Dad would look, nod and agree.
The owl wasn’t there for the bird seed. Owls are carnivores, so this one was likely eyeing critters in the open field.
Or perhaps the few unwise lingerers on the bird feeders.
Like all good mothers, Mom never claimed a favorite, but we all knew which bird fascinated her most:
That was Mom’s nickname for the majestic great blue heron that made an occasional appearance. Standing up to 4.5 feet tall, with a wingspan up to 6.6 feet, he strolled down the creek bed in search of a meal. When Harry deigned to pause for a bit – perhaps to give Mom more time to admire him – Mom was in raptures.
“Will you look at that?” she’d marvel to Dad every time Harry appeared. And Dad – obligingly and every time – would look.
Mom was meticulous about keeping the bird feeders full. Several times a week she made the rounds in the back yard, bucket of seed and scooper in hand, ensuring that “her” (migrating) robins, sparrows, warblers, juncos and snow buntings, and (year-round) chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays, had plenty to eat.
She had a bird bath that she emptied and scrubbed regularly, and for her year-round guests she bought one of these:
It’s a bird bath de-icer, and it provided water throughout the winter when unfrozen water was nearly impossible for birds to find.
And speaking of winter, I can only smile when I remember how Mom had to dress to go out in the Michigan winter to fill the feeders. Long underwear, long pants, two pair of socks, sweaters, a heavy jacket, boots, gloves, hat, scarf – all this, when she could have skipped the feeders and stayed cozy inside.
Not a chance of that happening.
Mom provided a safe, nurturing environment for birds because she loved them, and she had plenty of company. According to a 2018 article in The Atlantic, more than 50 million Americans engage in bird feeding, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 46 million Americans are bird watchers, at home and away from home.
Mom was both, and that’s why, if she’s watching…
Last week, that same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – on behalf of the Trump administration and his pals in the electric utilities and oil and gas industries – rolled back a longstanding federal protection for the nation’s birds:
That same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – according to a November 27 story on PBS.org – estimates that industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly seven billion birds in North America
That same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – this time from a November 27 article in The Hill:
“…acknowledged in its report that the regulatory change will have ‘negative’ impacts on migratory birds, as well as ‘other biological resources,’ ‘cultural resources’ and ‘ecosystem services…’
And though this rollback goes forward
“over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result…”
The Trump administration assures us this “would not cause unacceptable environmental harm.”
Is this oil-covered bird an example of Trump’s “not unacceptable environmental harm”?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s home page states their mission, right at the top of the page:
In keeping with the Trump administration’s much-vaunted transparency, I recommend the following addition:
But, come January 20, Mom can smile again: