Monday, July 27, 2009

The Young Ones Among Us

There are two times of the year that I favor for birdwatching, one being spring, the other, summer. Songbirds from the tropics fly in a flurry of color and song to pause in our trees for respite before traveling to their breeding grounds, giving us birdwatchers a welcome break from the drabs of winter. Mid to late summer is my other favorite time of the year because of the young birds, who have recently left the nest. It is here you see the efforts of the adult songbirds come to fruition; the defending of territory, effort in attracting a mate, nest building, incubation, feeding the young and defending the nest when necessary. The adults spend all this time and energy with the goal of insuring the future of their own kind and the young birds (aka juveniles) are now out and about, learning the ropes of survival.

Young birds are entertaining to watch. I have often found on the restored prairie and even in my backyard, a group of young birds hopping or flying after a harried parent, begging for food in a series of rapid wing flutters and high pitched chips. Everything in this world is new to these birds and I have found some of these youngsters are just as curious of you as you are of them. With patience and care, it is possible to come within a few feet of these young birds for several moments, allowing you the opportunity to study or photograph them.

The juvenile American Robins are my absolute favorites.

They are clumsy but unabashed in their attempts to explore their new abilities and the world around them. I have seen young robins bounce and flop among the top limbs of trees. I have seen a robin or two awkwardly hover in mid-air before doubling back to return to their original place in a tree. I've watched juvenile robins eye the ground before making an exaggerated pounce to obtain a worm, or a blade of grass. I've listened to these birds try their new voices that sound like squawks rather than the pleasant warble of the adults. Just last week I had 4 young Robins, probably all siblings, nearly collide into me because they were not paying attention to what was in front of them.

I think I like these young birds because in an odd way, I can relate to them. Every time I see a juvenile robin, I reflect back on some of the more awkward learning stages of my life. These young birds remind me that it's ok to not do a task perfectly the first, or even fifth time. It's the process that counts. And it's nice to see that reminder in action, rather than hear it from a friend or colleague.

Keep on learning my little Robin friends. You'll get the hang of life and before you know it, you'll be teaching your tricks to the next generation of your species.

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