Inspired by... Birdsong
Merlin Bird ID
Soon after the pandemic arrived, a few friends and I took up the practice of “Morning Watch,” inspired by a ritual at an outdoor school my son attended. Each morning, we’d each walk outside our own front doors, breathe in the scent of the morning, stand quietly, listen deeply, and welcome the day with all the enthusiasm we could muster.
Over time we began sharing our Morning Watch experiences with photos, musings, recommendations, and even occasional home-grown haiku. We are still practicing and sharing, through snow and rain and darkness and light.
In the joyous twittering of spring, we’ve been enjoying early morning songbird sound baths, as the birds chitter and chirrup and sing out to one another in 360-degree polyphony. Truly, this is an immersive experience as deep and rich as any sound bath any yoga studio could offer.
Recently, some of us have found a guide to help us get to know our morning choir a little better. We’ve added the free Merlin Bird ID app to our Morning Watch. This pocket-sized miracle by The Cornell Lab can help identify birds via guessing game (Where did you see it? Was it bigger or smaller than a robin? What colors was it?) or by photo identification (submit a picture from your phone), or even by sound. You open your app, navigate to “Sound ID” and hit record. Merlin listens deeply, works his magic, and tells you what birds you are likely hearing.
Many mornings this spring I’ve brought Merlin along on Morning Watch. After greeting the day and surveying the flower beds, I open the app and stand silently for five lovely minutes, absorbing the glorious birdsong while learning which twit and tweet belongs to which of my garden friends. This time of year Merlin finds a dozen or more birds lurking in the bushes and nearby trees. Some are old friends - robins and cardinals and house finches - but others are transient visitors, like warblers, or occasional surprises, like rose-breasted grosbeaks.
Little by little, my friends and I are learning to identify birds by ear. You don’t need to know their names to appreciate them, of course. But there is quiet magic in naming our world, in creating one more connection with life all around.
After my five-minute Merlin-guided birdsong meditation, I put down my phone and return to the birds, to the flowers, to the morning light slipping through the trees. I breathe and listen and linger in awe a little while longer. Just to be here is enough, the birds seem to say. Just to be present - body and mind and heart in the world, ready to be a full participant in the day ahead - might be our greatest calling.
“Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive,” the poet Hafiz once wrote. Yes! The world is awash in beautiful music, if only we stand still every once in awhile and grow quiet enough to listen.