It had been a long day. My four-month-old – having received his vaccinations the day before – promptly developed a temperature. Normally we wouldn’t have worried, but these days any sign of a fever is extra stressful.  His discomfort made him fussy, which made getting work done nearly impossible until my husband came home from his job at a nearby wildlife management area. I had banked a few hours over the weekend,  but when I finished my responsibilities,  my husband had to return to work to finish his. I was on my own for the evening.

In terms of COVID-19’s effects on my life,  I am currently one of the lucky ones. My office closed early and my husband works alone in the woods, so we sheltered in place fairly early and avoided exposure. We love our house and our neighborhood, and my yard overlooks a particularly birdy pond. And yet, I miss my family and friends, and grieve for those around the world who are not as lucky as I have been.
Eastern Kingbird.
That evening, my son’s discomfort continued to grow. His bouncy chair, swing, mat, and even my lap did little to calm him. As a last recourse, I took him down to the edge of the water, where the evening light faded into a rosy, serene pink. There’s a lot more to look at outside, and the baby calmed immediately, balancing on my knees as he craned his neck this way and that to take in his surroundings. I watched a Great Egret and Great Blue Heron forage nearby. Anhingas took off from the surface of the pond, making a bee-line to a tiny island they preferred for roosting. An Osprey called loudly from a nearby tree, searching for prey. Purple Martins and Chimney Swifts decorated the sky with their inky silhouettes and constant aerial acrobatics. A pair of Eastern Kingbirds flew loops in the air for insects. I even enjoyed following the Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles as they fed along the shallow edge of the water body.
I don’t mind the bird poop they leave behind!
Slowly, my insides uncoiled, letting go of the stress that had accumulated after a day of doling out baby Tylenol, balancing work responsibilities, and sanitizing delivered groceries. I began a love affair with birds and birding in my early twenties, but the COVID-19 crisis has taught me to be grateful for their presence. Watching my favorite avian friends has always distracted and delighted me, and now they soothe my anxious mind.
Someday, we will emerge from this pandemic and restart our “normal” lives. I hope I continue to carry my gratitude for birds as my day-to-day routines shift once more.
Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.