These are times of unfamiliar circumstances and in more ways than one. As the tide of climate disaster keeps rising, protests continue, and economies fall into recession, we move through time and space in a limbo of anxiety and uncertainty. These are the pandemic doldrums, a situation where horizons are muddled by the fogs of worry. As with any barrier, a sharp tool is required to cut through, to perceive the possibilities on the other side. In this case, that tool can’t be force; flailing against the mist only swirls it around. Perhaps the only thing that works is a calm, quiet mind, one that can rid itself of negative tendrils and generate diamond strength hope to help you see where to go and which bearings to follow.

I draw quiet strength and hope from birds. They help me start the day, make a beautiful new beginning to each morning and even if many are the same species as the previous day, I am thankful for their presence. The Blue-black Grassquit singing with each repeated jump on the concrete wall across the street.

The Crested (Spot-bellied) Bobwhites that awake me in the morning with their whistled calls.

The screeches of Crimson-fronted Parakeets and White-crowned Parrots as they fly to and from their roosts.

Out back, the gurgling sound of a hidden stream is punctuated by occasional bursts of raucous drunken laughter from Gray-cowled Wood-Rails. These colorful, chicken-like birds creep through the thick streamside vegetation and insists on persisting in an urban landscape.

Rufous-naped Wrens call and sometimes visit the balcony

while other birds stay hidden in the thick vegetation including Rufous-and-white-Wrens that look sort of like Carolina Wrens but sound more like ethereal creatures playing pipes.

Cabanis’s Wrens are also there and look even more like Carolina Wrens but sing quite the different song.

Barred Antshrike calls and sometimes pops into view as Red-billed Pigeons power overhead.

Hoffmann’s Woodpeckers are a common, everyday sight, similar to the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, they use the same snags as a larger species, the Lineated Woodpecker.

Once in a while, I hear the staccato-like calls of Common Tody-Flycatcher, the sneeze of a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and the descending whistles of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. It’s all good in this birding hood, the more you look and listen, the more you find.

There are also the common and conspicuous, the Great-tailed Grackles, Clay-colored Thrushes, and Melodious Blackbirds, Blue-and-White Swallows just out the window, other birds too.

Blue-gray Tanager is one of those other birds.

Once in a while, a White-tailed Kite hovers across the street, Gray Hawks call and soar into view, three or four species of swifts from the waterfalls of the mountains blast through to herald the approach of a storm, and I hear the warbling song of a Blue Grosbeak.

Some birds are the same, some are different but with sight sharpened by hope, every day is a discovery.

Written by Patrick O'Donnell
Patrick O'Donnell became a birder at the age of 7 after seeing books about birds in the Niagara Falls, New York public library. Although watching thousands of gulls in the Niagara Gorge was sublime, more bird species (and warmer weather) eventually brought him to Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and other very birdy tropical places. A biologist by training, he has worked on bird-related projects in Colorado, Washington, Peru, and other locales, and has guided birders in Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. These days, he lives in Costa Rica where he juggles guiding, freelance writing, developing bird apps for Costa Rica and Panama, posting on his Costa Rica birding blog, and discussing dinosaurs with his young daughter.