They fluttered down like leaves tossed into the air, then wheeled around jockeying for a place at the feeder. Their chirping was loud and insistent, and the ones that didn’t get a perch landed in the nearby bushes and loudly complained about their fate.
Spring brings out all the birds; the ones that overwintered are ready to enjoy the good life of warm winds and plenty of seed. The migrants remember the feeder from previous years — or maybe it’s genetic memory — and show up ready to push their way in to the good spots. Occasionally a bigger bird, a Dove, Jay or Flicker, will crash in, scattering the little ones in all directions. The little birds chirp and chatter in surprise and admonish the bigger birds to no avail.
The usual birds on our feeder include:
- The house finches with their red splash and pretty song,
- Pine Siskins with their unmistakable splash of yellow and peeping cry, The quarreling Blue Jays who distract each other from their food,
- The chickadees who are the clowns of the flock, hanging out at impossible angles,
- Boat-tailed Grackles with a raucous whistle and swaggering manner,
- Jungle-calling Flickers that dig through the seed looking for earwigs and spill seed on the ground, creating a feast for the squirrels,
- White topped Sparrows that chirp constantly, Eurasian Collared Dove whose cooing echoes throughout the neighborhood, but occasionally emit awkward squawks,
- Humming Birds that have aerial buzzing and trilling battles by the feeders,
- House Wrens that chitter at Betty the cat when she gets too close,
- A bevy of Goldfinches and Juncos,
- The ever-present rabble of Starlings with their eerie mix of squeeks, trills and raspberries and,
- Lots of little brown birds.
On a nice day the yard is full of cheeps and chatter, the sounds of spring.
Inside, another, quieter, flock of birds has lighted across the top of the piano. These migrants come from all over to grace our house, each bringing their own personality and meaning. They have been collected on trips, given as gifts, and purchased in diverse places, such as Arundel, Blackpool, Harrods in London, Vancouver, Aspen, Pismo Beach, Goodwill, market stalls in Mexico and gift shops all over the place.
The piano birds don’t stick to their kind, but mingle freely. The glass robin sits with the ceramic dove between the porcelain bunny from Disneyland and the wooden armadillo from Texas. The several owls don’t give a hoot who’s nearby, and hang with the mallard, baby blue jay, seal from Alaska and soapstone sea otter. English robins abound, many as gifts from English relatives or souvenirs of trips back to the homeland, including the hand-blown red glass Wedgewood robin that’s probably quite valuable. Stylized birds of fantastic or imaginary breed come in unreal plumage and shapes. The brass ducks are followed by string of brass ducklings, normally well-behaved and all in a line.
Nearly a dozen unruly penguins have taken over a spot by the sheet music stand, where they hang about like bored teenagers. Elegant and goofy, they resemble birds less than some fantastical water creatures made of ceramic, silver, plastic and glass, not to mention the knitted wool one.
Like the outside birds, each of these piano birds has their own song and their own music. It’s not audible to most ears, but it resounds in our memories: the people who sent them, the places they’re from, and the thoughts behind the gifts. The music is as broad as our lives, and as deep as our relationships and experiences. From where they sit on the piano hand-crafted by Merrilyn’s father, their music can be heard throughout the house..
It is nice music, indeed.