, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 2, 2013

When Matilda came to visit


What has transpired since then is quite remarkable and should be noted. In three weeks, 85 guests of all ages came to see her and none went away disappointed. The birding community was gracious, thoughtful, generous and encouraging. The only ground rules that I set up were that people needed to call and set up an appointment, and that they had to take off their boots when coming indoors. We decided that viewing the bird from our kitchen window, since the feeders are right out the window and there are no other real first floor options, was the best idea — besides it was warm. A white (yes, white!) tile kitchen floor would survive if boots were removed.

Being encouraged to be especially tidy in my kitchen and breezeway wasn’t such a bad idea either. I decided folks would have to adjust to us eating breakfast or lunch, and me in my bathrobe (never Bob!) if circumstances prevailed. Somehow, Christmas decorations got put away.

My vivid memories include: generous visitors coming, some bearing meal worms or peanut butter, or leaving funds for her care; exchanging so many wonderful birding memories with our visitors; observing her plumage in infinite detail and her distinctive behavior while far from her normal Caribbean wintering home; phone calls, ideas on how best to care for her, even a godmother; emails of encouragement and interest; showing our array of feeders and log rolling plastic bottles to all assembled; finding other good birds in the yard with our guests while they waited; pictures shared, trying to track her progress, comparing her to last year’s Odione, N.H. male; sharing recipes and serving soup and drinks; international gatherings on some days; old friends coming and meeting so many fellow birders — some new to birding, some old hands, and some young birders so enthusiastic and bright; getting to know the other current North Shore host family (the Buxtons of Blue Grosbeak fame); being totally overwhelmed by how many people have read my posts and have been tracking her progress; fretting over how she would survive in the bitter cold, and watching how I, the Jewish mother with no qualifications, and Bob, the much more reserved of the two of us, adapted to a very different life. A birding adventure pulls us away for a few weeks but my heart will remain here. Rest assured, I have arranged for her to be fed.”

Yes, hosting a “special” bird can be a positive experience, I know and hope that it can be for all who choose to share those special moments.


Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.

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