Saturday, May 14, 2011

Migratory Bird Day

Late last November Marcella Martin died. It was a sudden and totally unexpected passing for me of this good friend. I have not written of her before, but I thought today was a suitable day as she was the most avid bird watcher I knew.

Sally, the name by which I knew her, was 90 years old. Her age did not seem part of the equation for me. She had while aged, become ageless. She lived alone in her own home here in the village, where she had moved when she already was in her 80s after the death of her husband. I met her while gardening in my yard one day, while she and her granddaughter were out for a walk and had stopped to admired some plant growing in my front yard. I invited her to come and walk through the rest of my garden.

She often collected botanical items of interest and put them on display in her home. Sometimes it was a particularly colorful bit of quartz, or an interesting rock she had picked up from a stream while canoeing with her children. She had a glass apothecary jar filled with sweet gum seed pods she had picked up in southern Illinois, which now sits in my living room. (I am so glad her daughter Vicki thought to give them to me!) There was always something new from her walks or trips with children or grandchildren that she would put on temporary display so she could admire its unique characteristics.

She tracked the birds that came to her feeder everyday. She had tracked them for years. She adored sparrows and more than once mentioned that she worried about them and was concerned that something was going on with them, as there were so many fewer now than a few years back.

Cardinals, jays, grosbeaks, pine siskins, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, robins, and many more vied for the food she grew for them or with which she filled her feeders.

Sally had lived through the near demise and resurgence of our raptors. She had tracked and by her own records could see changes in the migratory patterns of birds and the push northward of range of some species and often commented on it to me.

The spring, when I saw a kingfisher sitting on a wire over a millpond, I has one of those momentary flashes that I should tell Sally. She would be excited about that. Or when the great horned owls called from one white pine to another one evening, I wanted to check with her, because I don't think she had ever recorded them in town before.

While bluebirds were probably her favorites of all, sparrows had a special place in her heart. While weeding this spring, I scared a momma sparrow off her nest in a decorative torch in my yard. In the nest, at eye height, are six sparrow eggs.

Sally, wherever you are, the sparrows are having a great year.

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