The plants in my yard are constantly surprising me.
Making them worth their weight in gold.

Down on the ground, there it was. This sharp-dressed bird shops at Barbour. Dapper, yet earth toned. Clean cut, yet with a Scottish flare of strength and hardiness. Like he belonged more on the moors of the Scottish Highlands than on my backyard garden hopping about.

This bird is a special sight indeed to me anyway, as I know that seeing it is only temporary. Migration is a fickle time for birders, and you get teased with a goodie every now and again.

I dare anyone interested in native plants to not also become a bird aficionado at the same time. How is it that I have existed on this planet for over forty years and yet only laid my eyes upon this lovely “little brown job” twice in my life? It’s gotta be the plants. I saw it once this winter while on a trail, and thought that lifer viewing was all I was going to get. Instead, my own personal “new bird alert announcement” echoed through the kitchen last night…enough to alert the family, but not loud enough to startle the bird away.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Had it not been for the plants in my yard, that would be over 40 years, and perhaps if I am healthy, a whole ‘nother forty without ever seeing this lovely little sparrow. They sport the best facial contouring makeup of any plain old sparrow. The White-Crowned Sparrow was a bird I knew of in guides and on everyone else’s bird-spectacular Instagram feed but whether I didn’t look hard enough or (more likely) didn’t spend enough time in the field actually looking, actively looking…I was thrilled to see this bird one May evening. I wasn’t out in the field this time, and I was not anywhere that required binoculars hung from my neck. But I was simply full of soapy hands washing dishes.

I do believe wholeheartedly that the plants in my yard have no doubt tapped my senses into so much more around me. It is hard to explain, but for now, I love how this birder, Christian Cooper says it, so I am going with it: “…once you tune in to on aspect of nature, you eventually become aware of the whole connected network of life around us.” I just picked up his book: Better Living Through Birding and I can’t wait to get into it! Have you read it??

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