I got a beautiful pair of Bushnell binoculars for Christmas. “Because you’re so visual. So observant.” said Will. “I want to nurture that.” He also noticed that I’ve fallen in love with a little cardinal that’s taken up in our backyard and my insistence on getting the bird feeder left by the previous owners of This Old House in working order.
I don’t know what exactly spawned my newfound interest in birds. Oh, wait. Yes I do. That little cardinal in my backyard. So cheery, happy, and red. He makes me smile every time I see him flutter across the alley, a little crimson blur skimming the phone wires until landing in the branches of our holly tree. Jonathan Rosen, in his book The Life of the Skies, describes our affinity for birds like this:
Everyone is a birdwatcher, but there are two kinds of birdwatchers: those who know what they are and those who haven’t yet realized it. In the United States, a lot of people have realized it — 47.8 million Americans, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service — and yet my passion is constantly greeted with surprise. You? Perhaps it is because I live in a city and lead an urban life. But why should people wonder that I watch birds? It’s like being surprised that someone has sex or goes to the bathroom. The surprise reveals ignorance not so much about birds—their beauty, their abundance, their wild allure — as about human nature. We need, as the great biologist Edward O. Wilson has argued, to affiliate with nature in order to be happy. He calls this phenomenon “biophilia.”