Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience".

With the intention of moving an azalea bush from one garden to another, planting a butterfly bush in its place, and weeding two extremely neglected gardens, I began what I thought was a 'solitary effort'.  Pitchfork in hand, I attacked weeds that had sprouted and spread unrestrained.

Approximately 10 minutes had passed when I noticed this little gray catbird.  It seemed to be hanging around, watching what I was doing.  I stepped back from the garden, looking at the catbird with curiosity.  Seizing the opportunity, it hopped onto the overturned dirt, grabbed several bugs and worms, and then flew away.  Laughing to myself, I resumed working.  The catbird returned within minutes!  I stood back; it hopped right into the freshly turned dirt, grabbed more bugs and worms, and flew off.  This continued over and over for quite some time.

I took a break before starting to dig out the azalea bush.  What did the catbird do?  It flew up onto the handle of the pitchfork, looked at me, and chirped, as if to say, "Hey get back to work, I need more food!  There's no slacking off!"  I actually answered it, out loud, "I'm doing all the work, you're reaping all the benefits, and I need a break!"  Oh yes, I talked to the catbird quite often that afternoon, and realized I had become its employee.  This was one smart bird!

Since my new 'supervisor' didn't allow breaks, I immediately began digging up the azalea, creating quite a large pile of dirt.  The catbird stayed close, watching me with its ever vigilant black eyes.  Every time I stepped away, it hopped right onto the pile, scooped up the bugs and worms, and flew away.

Freeing the azalea I carried it to the other side of the house, and started to dig a large hole.  The catbird followed me!  I'm sure it was thinking, "Ah, a new food source!"  This little catbird was one persistent, bold and courageous bird, at one point coming within two inches of my feet.  I continued to dig.  I would step back.  It would grab food.  It would fly off.  It would return.

Having never experienced this type of interaction with a bird, I was fascinated.  I watched as it went after small bugs, watched as it deftly picked bugs right off the cement foundation of the house, and watched as it grabbed worms, maneuvering the worms with its beak into tight loops making them easier to carry back to the nest. 

The gardening I had planned to do should have taken about two hours.  It took over four.  I didn't mind.  I was delighted to become the employee of the catbird; together we worked hard so it could feed its family.  I was permitted to participate in and observe the beauty that is nature; and in the process I learned "nature patience":  I learned to slow down my 'human' pace and observe the world around me.

For more information on catbirds (Orpheus Carolinesis, Linn., dumetelle carolinesis) visit the Audubon Society's website.


  1. The catbird tale is wonderful. Especially liked you talking with the bird. Perhaps if we do more of that, one day animals will respond...or not. Can't hurt to try.

    How refreshing! A blog that concentrates on the natural world around us. This world surrounds us 24/7, yet many of us regularly ignore it. For example, when we're out in it exercising--jogging, walking, or biking--some of us choose to shut it out, even then, with earplugs.

    I enthusiastically welcome Obsertography to the blogosphere. I look forward to reading it regularly and contributing when the spirit moves me.

  2. Wonderful photo along with such a heart warming story. Really great stuff!!!