“Oh, to be a bird on a warm day in the Lowcountry,” I said to no one as I watched a fat and happy male cardinal splashing in the birdbath outside our bedroom window. 

His dance exuded joy and freedom as he hopped about. When he flapped his wings as if to bathe his body, water droplets flew everywhere in a flash.

He then jumped up onto the rim of the birdbath to dry himself, puffing out his round chest and again flapping his wings.

He must have decided he wasn’t quite finished, so he hopped back into the water and repeated the entire routine.

At this point, I noticed that another, bigger bird had flown past and landed in the tree close by. 

Mr. Cardinal noticed him too – and immediately hopped out, took a quick shake, and flew off to the nearby shrubs.

Down swooped the big bird from the shadows of the tree. It was the brightest, bluest blue jay I have seen in years. He was magnificent but timid as he seemingly tiptoed into the bath. After just a moment or two of splashing, he was done and gone. 

Maybe the cardinal had used up more than his share of water, and the jay didn’t have enough left to bathe.

Can you just imagine this sight, right there in the backyard, two weeks before spring officially starts? Have you seen something like this? Does it give you an instant feeling of near euphoria? 

That’s what I felt. What fun it must be to fly wherever you want to go, nibble on food offered freely in hanging containers all over the neighborhood, and have a human draw your bath.

I have long had an affinity for birds. My first love was seagulls, who were my neighbors when I was lucky enough to live in a house right on the beach. 

I had come to appreciate these beautiful white and blue-gray shore birds on a visit to Jamestown, Rhode Island, as a teen. I had read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” before my trip, and upon arrival took dozens of photos of them and their acrobatics. 

Seagulls are not afraid of humans, so they would flutter down from the sky, then zoom in close enough to grab a piece of bread from my outstretched hand.

I spent as much time on the beach feeding gulls and I did sitting in the sun and reading.

The second neighbor birds I encountered were a family of owls. For a few months, we had watched and listened to the mom and dad who lived in an oak tree in our yard.

A naturalist in our neighborhood explained they were barred owls, likely a mated pair. He taught us their song: “Whoo? Whoo? Who’ll cook for you?” 

We learned to watch for them on the branches of several trees around our yard. 

One morning, several months after we were aware of the pair, we walked out the front door and were startled to see not one, not two, but three smaller versions of our owl friends. They were sitting in a row on the edge of the birdbath nestled under the azalea bush.

They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Rushing back inside to grab a camera (long before cell phone cameras) to take their photo, we managed to not scare them away.

The family of five hung around our yard for the rest of the season, and we kept up with them as they moved from yard to yard around the neighborhood.

I watch birds at our feeders all year long, For me, it’s great entertainment, and a great opportunity to enjoy these feathery icons of nature up close without disturbing them.