Birds of a feather do not always flock together. In fact, in the winter it is quite common for a variety of small species of songbirds to join together in what has come to be known as a foraging flock. There are advantages to joining avian forces. Higher numbers provide advantages—safety and more sets of eyes on the lookout for potential predators and food.
Today in Lowell dawned wintry indeed, with snow falling in delicate flakes all morning and into the afternoon.
I went for my usual swim at the gym, which meant walking back and forth beneath and through the snow. It crunched underfoot, swept around my body, and stuck steadfastly to my pants. And I loving every minute of it.
On the way home, my wet hair tucked safely away from the cold, I walked past frozen canals. I inhaled for a moment when I caught a glimpse of heavy wingbeats disappearing behind brick.
“That was no gull,” I thought to myself. I tried to hustle to the corner to see it again, if only for a quick moment, but it was long gone before my slow, booted, human foot could catch up.
I kept walking. No cop parked in their usual spot in the parking lot.
Crunch crunch crunch.
The Freudenberg Building ahead. It stands all day everyday with lights on and no one at home. Abandoned but waiting. Wish it wasn’t wasting so much electricity in the interim, though. We humans do not seem to learn.
Tiny birds flit about around tiny trees beside the Freudenberg.
They are dark and unassuming. Are they starlings? House sparrows?
I think I catch a wisp of white on a tail feather but assume I am hallucinating. Hearing voices is one thing, but hallucinating passerines is something special all its own.
Upon closer inspection, I realize the reality of the perceived delerium and exclaim in delight, “juncos!”
I walk slowly closer. There are many of them with another species in the mix. Lincoln sparrows.
I can hardly believe my good luck. No binoculars needed, I can just stand and watch.
So I do.
While I am watching them, the snow wraps around us all. We are in a tiny globe, a moment shared by only us.
They seem to sense that I am not a threat. They keep a safe distance, no venturing near to come and perch on my head and shoulders. Yet they do not fly away. I am so thankful.
I talk to them, tell them how much I have missed them, how beautiful they are, how lonely I am in this city and how my heart feels so empty without them. I am so nature deprived in Lowell, with trees surrounded by brick, fence, and pavement in all directions.
These birds are hard at work. I do not envy their life in the elements.
Before I leave, I bid them good luck.
My heart is somewhat heavy as I walk away. I wonder at my own state of mind and soul. I am a bird of my own feather, which can be lonely.
I pass a young woman in hot pink leggings and boots. She is wearing headphones. She is in Lowell but in another world, one different from my own and the place I just left.
I hope she is happy.