The Big Yard: Birdwatching in a Time of Quarantine

Or: The Evolution of a Lister

On March 13, 2020, the country went under a National Emergency two days after the WHO declared a Pandemic.  Orders of a shutdown.  My little Bisbee tourist town turned silent.  No dopplering tires on the highway. 

Day 3 of the Quarantine (March 16, 2020)

            This morning, the season’s first Scott’s oriole flutes from one of the giant Emory oaks in the yard.  The vivid black and lemon-yellow male announces spring and its astonishing avian migration like no other bird in my neighborhood.  It begins.  Soon, there will be bright tanagers like flying tomatoes and whip-poor-wills like stones singing from the creek in the evenings.  A feathered wave of hummingbirds will storm my sugary feeders for fuel—12 species in all—the tiny rufous like copper coins as they make their way to the far coasts of Alaska.

Bird Migration cues me to change.  More than ever in these days of quarantine, I measure my life by the birds as they come and go.  Their steady pulsing is the heartbeat of my yard.  A pattern that gives me hope.  As long as the birds arrive and depart with the seasons, I feel their rhythm, gauging it against the isolation in a way that reaches deeper inside me than the social distancing.  At a time when trite affirmations like “You are never really alone” fail, I mark the birds.