Living a contemplative life in my twenties, I became interested in watching and identifying birds. Every year I would watch the seasonal migrations and antics of familiar birds. Mourning doves could be heard most mornings. Towhees and chickadees were prevalently seen. At certain times of year, I'd see flocks of large, colorful cedar-waxwings sitting bolt-upright like choir-boys in our hawthorn tree, or I'd enjoy the sight of delicate, amusing flocks of tiny bush-tits decorating our pyracantha at odd angles. While sitting in our garden, the whirr of a hummingbird often sounded close to my ear, just before the flash of color when it bolted away because my head intinctively turned towards the motor-boat sound. One year I saw a ring-necked pigeon swoop low over our garden, and I thought it was an eagle! More recently a hawk and a blue heron have been seen scouting the neighborhood.
There are two hummingbird nests in a neighbor's rhododendron - tiny little gossamer cups, spun from spiders' webs. We've had a mockingbird who sang only the songs of western birds for several years, and after that a raucous california jay camped out for a couple of years too. Finches abound. Seagulls. Crows.
I have a crow-story to share. When I visited India in 2003, I attended a wonderful gathering of tens of thousands of people, and in one of the tents that was air-conditioned (by electric fans), a crow had been injured. I was asked to carry it to the medical facility. The damaged crow flopped about in an impotent rage on the floor, dangerous because of its powerful beak. Swami managed to catch it and picked it up, and asked me to take it. I was very careful to hold its wings quite firmly yet gently, because I knew how easily a bird can escape from your hands. And now there was the question how I would be able to walk with the terrified bird through the throngs and throngs of people over an unknown distance to the medical tent! I asked someone to drop a cloth napkin over the bird's head from behind, which she did. The crow immediately relaxed and allowed me to carry it through the huge and noisy mulititude for a distance of about a quarter to a half a mile. Once I arrived at the medical tent, the doctors were a little surprised to learn that their patient was a crow, but the creature was dutifully taken home and nursed back to health. It was an amazing experience to hold such a large wild bird, with its massive and powerful black beak, in my bare hands. I've never felt the same about crows since then, and I like to imagine, when I see them in the trees of the neighborhood, that we have a special relationship. We are friends.