Some of you already know birders have this tradition called the Big Year. People using planes, trains, and automobiles so they can go climbing, hiking, scoping, and sweating through lands far, far away to rack up credits for sighting the glory of the world’s birds. Lynn Barber even broke records sighting 723 species in one Big Year. Yes, it’s quite epic. And you know what, the butt-kickin’ Aries and the shoulda-woulda-coulda-been athlete in me says… humph… let me get out there, I’mo show you a Big Year.
But then I settle down and realize: my nature ain’t got to be that hard. My epic is right before me. I win the Big Day contest of my life every 24 hours. Right now, I’m standing in the splendor of this ongoing cycle and giving this shout out to the birds mostly in a neighborhood Chicago—West—who let me know, it’s epic every day, all day.
To the cardinals, I usually see you in twos, all boo-ed up, and I feel the Black love that prayed together and stayed together on both sides of my family tree.
Male Cardinal sports nearly every red in God’s art studio: cherry, amaranth, blood, scarlet, and vermillion. And if I can’t find this gumbo of red in the tree above me, he’s got an arrow on the top of his head for my eyes and laser beam calls for my ears. Black velvet collar around his street cone-colored beak.
And yes, Mr. Redbone, I see your girl, she’s just as dynamic as you, but not as flashy. In her muted display of taupe, bone, heather, and burnt orange, she turns the Martha Stewart greyiege dusted on her cheeks into a song wafting through the air. Girl, I see you and I feel my Grandma Ruby and Grandma Maybell say “How you doin’, Baby?”
To those two wild turkeys on what appeared to be their third date… Bomp chicka waah waah. Gobble, gobble, gobble… oh yeah.
To those South Side Parakeets zooming through the park, checking in on their West Side/Blessed Side cousins. Family knows no neighborhood.
To those Red-winged Blackbirds chasing down Red-tailed Hawks, the prey have had it with being hunted today. Nah, nah, nah, predator, you got to go that way.
To the baby American Kestrel perched on the fire escape of Chicago’s first skyscraper, chirping right at me, wanting to know when her parents would be back or maybe: it’s you with something I can eat?
And a moment of silence and civil unrest for all the dead migrants on the ground in front of big buildings. Their incredible colors blinking out in the half gray of early Spring with the message that: we got to do better for the brothers and sisters that make their way across valleys, mountains, and rivers, seeing human daddies with daughters clinging to their backs but not cities with glass buildings.
Now, you might be like some graceful, elegant, move in a direct, straight line, annoyingly efficient and alone Great Blue Heron, but this shout out is to all my chimney swifts chatting up the world in packs—sounding like me and my girlfriends who still use a phone for what it was originally made for. You flit this way and that, making circles, dodging demons, rapidly turning to the left. No one knows which way your conversation will go. And, what’s the use of getting to the point when you can fly and fly with your friends, and talk about mammograms, viral videos, and the best bread for peanut butter and jelly?
And, finally, BIG UPS for all y’all mosquito-eating resident and migrant bird ANGELS. You may be homely, mean, or forgettable—just keep chowing down on my nemesis. They can tell me that blood-sucking mosquitoes are “important for the ecosystem,” “God’s creatures,” or “just mothers trying to feed their babies.” I don’t care what they say… GO ALL YOU CAN EAT on them jokers; put ‘em down like you’re a champion competitive hot dog eater. Cause I ain’t got no love for skeeters.
Just save enough to eat for the next rising sun of our everyday epic.