Growing old is for the birds

The VIEW from here



I know I’ve mentioned here before my father’s affinity for birds. When I was a kid growing up in Davison Township, my dad was forced into early retirement due to medical reasons and he would spend his days playing the card game Solitaire at the kitchen table.

I’d often find him there when I came home from school, playing cards and looking out the front window at the bird feeder he’d built. Most days it would be surrounded by birds of all kinds, there to have a quick meal or to load up in response to coming inclement weather.

My dad was given the nickname “Birdman” by some of the people living near us – although there weren’t many neighbors, we lived in the middle of 72 acres with the nearest home about a quarter mile away. Hunters were the source of the “birdman” moniker, he would routinely go out during hunting season and run them off the property surrounding us…even though the land didn’t technically belong to him. If you didn’t have permission by the owner to be there, then you had to go.

Dad really took to the whole birdwatching thing after he retired. I think it gave him something to do other than watch old movies and play Solitaire. His emphysema had left him unable to do much without becoming winded and dependence on oxygen left him tied mostly to the house.

He went out one day and bought a book about birds found in North America with pictures so he could identify some of the birds he saw outside our home. I still can remember many of the birds there and can point out a Baltimore Oriole or Downy Woodpecker at a glance.

Remembering dad’s fondness for birds prompted me to put out a bird feeder a little more than a year ago.

While I don’t watch it as often as my dad did, I still enjoy checking out every day to see what feathered friends have dropped in the pay a visit.

Keeping up with filling the feeder and chasing off squirrels is one of the few challenges feeding the birds has. Thanks to my brother’s input (also an avid birdwatcher) I’ve found the right seed to keep the squirrels away and he’s given me other tips to help me stay on top of my bird hobby.

My daughter called the other day while I was going to the store to buy a bag of safflower seed. When she asked what I was doing, I told her “buying food for my birds!”

She laughed. “Wow dad, you sound old.” I guess at that moment I felt like I was indeed older, and I remembered feeling the same way about my dad when he would get excited over birdwatching.

Admittedly, I never really got the whole bird-watching thing when I was younger. Dad enjoyed it and it gave him something to do, so I didn’t think much about it until now that I’ve reached the age he was when he started feeding the birds and watching them flock at his feeder.

I think we take nature for granted sometimes and when we get older it becomes something we notice and say: “I’ve never stopped to enjoy the view…maybe I should more often.”

Gary Gould is the managing editor of the View Newspapers. Contact him at