Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Our Far-Flung Correspondents: Brita, Odin, and Their Mom Sarah

Brita and Odin
I love hearing from listeners, and this summer I got an unexpected treat when I received an email from Sarah Carlson. She wrote:
My sisters and I were avid listeners of your program growing up in the Duluth area in the 1980's and 90's. I remember sending you little illustrations of birds along with a letter or two. My sister, Kate, even asked you about a robin she saw in winter; you reassured her that it was indeed likely a robin, which brought immense comfort to her within our questioning family.   
Now I'm 40 years old and raising my two children in Duluth to love the birds and nature. We homeschool, and therefore spend a ton of time outdoors. … Now my daughter, Brita, 8, is learning to identify birds. Other than a distrust of pigeons and our squawking laying hens, she realizes the importance of all birds in the circle of life. She just finished reading the entire Little House series of books, and absorbed a lot of Laura's bird observations in the 1880's.   
My son, Odin, 5, fills up the feeders and gathers the chicken's eggs. He can identify some bird songs and says his favorites are the chickadee, ostrich, and ruffed grouse. We have gotten several of your books and thank you for educating us.  
Brita is drawing the little mystery bird in Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter.

A few weeks ago, I heard back from Sarah:
I wanted to send you one more message letting you know we've subscribed to your blog, and loved looking at all the photos and information of all your bird species.   
What a life list and adventures you've had, rehabbing birds and traveling!    
Today while she had her binoculars out, spotting a male cardinal and several chickadees, Brita remarked, "I wish I could fly!  I'd soar with the hawks in the sky".   
She is drawing birds looking at photos from your books. We also got a book about Roger Tory Peterson and are learning about Charles Darwin's documentation of evolution studying the finch's beaks. All very interesting.  
Thanks again, for all your work and teachings.  
Brita and Odin dissect owl pellets
Sarah told me that Brita, her “bird girl,” has two favorite birds, the chickadee and Pileated Woodpecker. She likes chickadees because: 
They're such cute little birds, and I like their little black cap. They should be the Minnesota state bird because they are so common and live here all winter long. And, I've almost had one land on my hand.  
Black-capped Chickadee

I’m inordinately pleased that both Brita and Odin name the chickadee among their favorite birds. Like Brita, I place the Pileated Woodpecker among my top birds, too. Brita said she "likes the call of the pileated woodpeckers best". She thinks "they are the most beautiful birds in the northern forest." 

Pileated Woodpecker

I also like Odin’s choice of Ruffed Grouse—that’s a pretty cool bird, too.

Ruffed Grouse

And I like his broad world view, including the Ostrich among his favorites. I’ve been to Uganda once, but not to Kidepo National Park, the one spot in the whole country where Ostriches live. I hope I can go back to Africa—I still yearn to see wild Ostriches, Secretarybirds, and Zebras. 

Like me, Brita thinks about both species of birds and individuals. She named the male pileated woodpecker at her place "Pili". She calls the chickadee she sees in their yard "Chee-Chee" and the others are "Chee-Chee's friends!"

It is ever so rewarding to realize that people who started listening to For the Birds as children became more aware, and more fond, of birds in part because of me, and that now, as grownups, they’re sharing this love for birds with their own children. My tombstone will probably read, “She blathered about birds.” It’s lovely to know that some people appreciate those blatherings.