I’m in a couple birding groups on Facebook, and lately they’ve been making me insanely jealous. Several times a day, someone will post professional quality photos of themselves feeding wild birds right out of their hands.
So I finally found a free day and took my family on a trek to Kensington Metropark, where all these bird whisperers were taking their amazing, supposedly not-photoshopped pictures. Besides feeding a bird from my hand, I also wanted to see a sandhill crane up close. I tried not to get my hopes up, though, because I know how these things go. (insert big-eyed sad face here)
As it turned out, those bird whisperer pictures were the real deal. As soon as we crossed the parking lot and pulled our stash of black oil sunflower seeds from our pockets, birds appeared. We took a seat on a bench, arms outstretched in offering, and waited . . . but not for long.
It took about two minutes for the first chickadee to land on Sean’s hand and steal a seed. Then Eve got a bird, and then I did. First we had black-capped chickadees, which were the friendliest of the bunch. But then tufted titmice (or is it titmouses?), downy woodpeckers, and even a shy white-breasted nuthatch ventured to our travelling seed buffet.
The feel of their delicate weight balancing on your fingertips is instantly addictive. Although it was freezing outside, we spent hours feeding the birds without complaint.
As for the sandhill cranes, we got our fill of those, too. I fell in love with these exotic beauties when I saw my first one 10 years ago at a crane festival in Lodi, California. In our real life back home, we perk our ears at the sound of distant crane calls and go on long drives through rural fields looking for them.
But here in bird fantasia, the cranes get uncomfortably close and then follow you around for hours, hoping you’ll drop some food for them. They have fearsome beaks they’re not shy about using on you. At the beginning of the day, we melted with bliss when a crane came within sight; by the end of the day, we were like, “Stop following me, man! Personal space, Mr. Crane.”
It was hard to drag ourselves away from this experience, but eventually we realized we were possibly getting frostbite and should probably call it a day. Plus our arms were really tired.
There was just one thing left to do before leaving Kensington . . .