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  • Writer's pictureBella Ve

Peace, Love, Bird Club

I, Bella, have been wanting to go to Bird Club for a while now. When I invite friends to Bird Club who aren’t in the know they say, sure, I’ll come with you. I say, great, meet me in the park at 9am. They are confused. Surely you are not going to the club so early in the morning. Surely you mean 9pm. No, I say. It is not the club but bird club. For bird watching.

None of my friends can commit to waking up early enough on a Saturday so I go alone.

Bird Club has been a fixture of Saturday mornings in the park for a while now, but I was only introduced to it once I started working for my local parks conservancy. It’s a free, community-based birdwalking tour that started with a small group, and has since spread like wildfire across my tight-knit neighborhood.

Bird Club begins with a Mary Oliver poem (Wild Geese) and a brief intro by Michael, resident Bird Man.

“Four years ago,” he begins, “I was addicted to my phone.” By the power of the bird he learned to be present. Birdwatching, he explains, isn’t so much about seeing fifty different species of bird (although that’s certainly a plus). It’s about being mindful. It is a kind of moving meditation. He instructs us to look between the branches of the trees with a soft focus. Don’t get too hung up on finding tails or wings. Look for movement. That is when you see the bird.

I move through the park with binoculars borrowed from Michael. I’m gradually soaked to the bone because it is just pissing rain and I couldn’t be bothered to bring an umbrella. He tells tale of a red bellied woodpecker spotted in the park. I learn that even though the woodpecker has more red on its head than its belly, it is named so because we already have a redheaded woodpecker in the United States. Also, because birds are only named once they are killed.

Walk through the park at any given moment and you might stumble upon the woodpecker yourself. Or, you might see a surprisingly impressive sketch of it on the Bird Club whiteboard. Remarkably the whiteboard has never been stolen (at least not to my knowledge), and though it has several markers stuck there for anyone in the neighborhood to write on, I’ve yet to see a dirty word, a fallic drawing, or a hate symbol written. It’s a rarity to be so encouraged by humanity. It must be the power of bird, indeed.

(P.S. for anyone who may be self-conscious of their participation in gentrification; Google “volunteer opportunities in XXX neighborhood,” “community events near me,” or connect with a nonprofit/community-based organization in your area. Birdwatching is the opposite of doomscrolling, Michael says).


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