When I was walking in the SC Botanical Gardens last week, a catbird came and landed in a Beautyberry shrub just beside me on the path.  I stood stock still, unable to believe my luck.  But then, being me, I couldn’t actually stay that way very long.  Instead, I fell back on my tried and true method for interacting with nature:  just be yourself.

“Hello there,” I said brightly to the bird, who was by now gorging himself on winter’s leftovers, shriveled, purple, Beautyberry berries.*  “Did you want to have your portrait taken?”

Mr. Catbird** cocked his head at me as if considering my proposal, but somehow didn’t startle at being verbally addressed by a human being only a few feet away.

Taking this as encouragement, I began to fumble for my camera while staring him directly in the eye.  “We’re actually having a promotional special today, “I added, “a free photo session for all birds friendly enough to stop by this bush.”

He actually hopped a little closer.  I raised the camera slowly into range.

And that’s when everything went wrong.***  He flew gently onto the branch closest to me and looked up at me patiently, so close I could have stroked his feathered head — at which point I completely lost my own.  I was so surprised that I snapped photos without even adjusting the range, with just the barest glance at the screen.

My eyes were all for him as he daintily nibbled another bright berry, tilting to watch my face the whole time, and the pictures I took show it plainly.  I was definitely woman-interacting-with-bird and not would-be-nature-photographer.  (Real nature photographers truly deserve our respect.)

The second he flew to another branch, much farther away, I snapped out of my trance and got a decent shot of his backside.  Classic.

But hey, we shared a little moment, and that’s worth more than a photo to me.

Mr. Catbird’s portrait session is brought to you today by the beginnings of a cold or flu which also caught me by surprise and curtailed my plans to plant**** peas and mustard today.  Instead, I sat in a super hot bath simulating a fever to try and get rid of the bug before it goes farther.  Not very garden-related… although I did take a delightful seed catalog with me for comfort, and I plan to read a garden-related novel while I rest this afternoon.

With luck, this will be the second time I beat back a cold-like tendril of an illness this season, not allowing it to take hold.  I have learned that it is much better for me to just drop everything and focus on getting better immediately upon noticing symptoms than to do what I did formerly, i.e. just ignore it and hope it goes away — and end up still dealing with lingering unpleasantness weeks later.

Just a quick note for those of you keeping track of my year of Focus.  The photograph for week four is ready, but I didn’t feel remotely up to writing the accompanying post. (I suspect you’ll understand why once you read it.)  That post will come tomorrow, or if need be later in the week.

Namasté, y’all!

* Yes, this is actually correct.  You can look it up.

** No, I don’t know if it was a Mr. Catbird or a Ms.  I don’t even know the proper species name for “catbird,” or if the bird in question has a more fitting common name.  That is what my Dad always called these birds, and I’ve never had the pleasure of a genuine interaction with one before.  You can be sure I plan to educate myself soon.  And feel free to enlighten me with whatever you already know in the comments section.

*** Not really.  Everything actually went just right… albeit not as expected.

**** Oh, well, those who garden by the moon say we are “moon in Virgo,” a barren yet moist period when planting is not advised.  So maybe it’ll all work out for the best.

[Update 2/2/10:  That was not a catbird that I saw.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (love that place), this is a Catbird.  Commonly confused with the catbird — and I’ll have to tell my Dad — is the Northern Mockingbird.  Luckily, I never called my friend by name, so he did not get offended by my mistake.  A particular sentence in the Cornell Lab’s description made me laugh:  “The Northern Mockingbird enjoys making its presence known.”  Indeed.]

24 Responses to “backside”

  1. Meredith I can so relate to this birds are the hardest subjects to keep still and then when you get the camera up to your eye they disappear out of the view finder so quickly. You did well to get as close as you did. Never heard of a Catbird before! Rosie

  2. Charming whatever the angle!

  3. What a wonderful, up close and personal visit. Your feathered friend shared his space with you. He knows a kind spirit when he sees one.

    I hope you feel better!

  4. aloha, i enjoyed your post…birds are never easy to photograph, but it seems like you have a way with them and not your camera 🙂

  5. Hello Meredith,

    I love this little bird…I have not heard of “catbirds” before. Isn’t is so exciting when a bird lets you get close with your camera? I do hope you feel better :^)

  6. Ah, the joy of trying to photograph animals…sometimes the backside is the only side they offer. Hope you can fend off that cold!!!

  7. I’m telling you, those birds just don’t like paparazzi! But he’s got a cute back end 🙂

    Glad you had the up close and personal time with the bird and I hope your nip-it-in-the-bud actions keep those germs well at bay for you!

  8. A beautiful account of a magic moment. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your learnings on ‘Catbirds’ 🙂

    • Well, thank you, Heidi. I posted a little note about my newest info in a note attached to the original post, but I’ll get around to more details later, I hope. 🙂

  9. Dear Meredith, What an engaging posting. I was enthralled with your description of the ‘Catbird’ and actually thought the picture, even though it might not have been the one you wanted, to be charming.

    I very much hope that your cold is not getting you down too much. Such depressing things. Mercifully I have escaped having one so far this winter. I am so glad finally to have come to your site via Noel in Hawaii. Future postings should now reach me by email. Fingers crossed.

    • Dear Edith, thank you for the compliments and the visit. I was so touched that Noel gave me a recommendation in his recent post. He’s wonderful!

      I did not know you could receive e-mail postings of my blog. Let me know if it works for you. (I’m actually working on a different template that will allow lots more options for the blog, such as a blogroll… we’ll see if it works!)

  10. Lovley to get your comment on the robins.. that catbird and conversation delightful !

  11. What a delightful story, Meredith! You did indeed have a true *moment in time*, how lucky you were! I do hope your illness recedes with the steps you have taken to nip it in the bud. I want to share with you a secret for stopping a stomach flu, it might work for all bugs. A diet of only, yes, nothing else at all, Cheezits, for several days until you are sure the danger has passed. I know, weird and irrational, but it works. The individual packets are the perfect serving size, three or four times a day. You will get hungry, but do not deviate from the diet. 🙂

    • Frances, your kind words mean a lot to me. Cheezits? I happen to enjoy cheezits… maybe I ought to send F. out for some. This sounds delightfully unorthodox, you know. 😉

  12. So nice of you to stop by my blog and leave a kind note. I too am hoping the groundhog is wrong but I like your grandfathers way of predicting. So far he seems to be correct. It has been extremely wet and cold even here on the coast. Love the your take on the birds. Can’t believe he was so close to you. I do hope you feel better soon. Have a great day. Becca

  13. I was totally thinking this was it! Especially after your explanation. 🙂

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