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The Bird Connection

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This is Bela, on his first afternoon of freedom. He came back at sundown to chat and sip a little nectar from an eyedropper. It was clear he didn't need to eat, he just wanted to say hello. Funny, so did I!

Well, it's been a thrilling day. "When Hummingbirds Come Home," the commentary that aired on All Things Considered last night, is #1 on the NPR website's 25 Most E-mailed Stories. Not only that, but "My Hummingbird Summer," the prequel to this one, which aired last April, is #16! Which means that people are emailing the sequel, and then they're looking up the prequel, and emailing that, and it's all just a bit much to believe.

Magic atop magic: Sitting in my kitchen right now is Martha Weiss, fabulous college friend. We've not seen each other for 23 years. But she heard me on the radio, and looked me up, and we've been in touch since. Our husbands are yakking; our kids are all having a slumber party in the tower room as I write.

While I was fixing shrimp curry for dinner, my dear friend Grace Shohet called from San Francisco. She'd heard it, too. We haven't spoken for eight years, and she has an 8-year-old daughter I've never seen!

At the root of these little reunions is a powerful story--the story of hummingbirds that made a real connection with human beings. Knowing an individual bird is a powerful thing. We all yearn to know birds, I think, to make that vital connection with an individual. Raising a young bird, we're let in on a big surprise: they think, they reason, they recognize us--and they bond with us. Birds are anything but feathered automatons. They're intelligent, resourceful, and surprisingly affectionate beings. I've raised robins, bluebirds, mourning doves, cardinals, chimney swifts; a starling, a catbird, a wood thrush, a cedar waxwing, a rose-breasted grosbeak, five hummingbirds. They all bonded with me; I think they all needed to know they were loved, and they returned it. Unscientific? You bet. But they all returned successfully to the wild, and most of them came back to visit, sometimes for years on end.

Amazing what happens when your voice comes out of people's car radios. I feel so blessed.


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