In the last week of October, 2013, I started a strenuous exercise program: walking two miles three days a week and swimming a half hour two days a week. All the way up to Thanksgiving I was keeping to my schedule. My swimming goal was to swim a half mile non-stop. I was almost there, splitting it up into two quarter mile segments. Then winter arrived. The next thing I knew I was limping because arthritis or bursitis or whatever in my left hip was acting up. I decided to treat it with heat, witch hazel and cold compresses. Finally it cleared up. But then my right heel acted up and I was limping again, so I focused on that. The holidays also slowed my program down. In short, I stopped exercising. Then I got a cold New Year’s Eve which lasted until January 16th. And of course the fiercely cold winter temperatures and snow hit us as well. That’s my long story of how I haven’t been out communicating with nature for over a month. I especially miss the walks.

In the warmer weather I always see lots of birds and animals when I go for my walk. Squirrels, rabbits and sometimes a glimpse of a possum or raccoon are my reward. Most of my animal friends are in the bird kingdom: wild parrots, chickadees, robins, cardinals, sparrows, woodpeckers, house finches and  American goldfinches with their bright yellow, white and black feathers darting in and out of the trees. I even know some of them by their chirping. My favorites, however, are the hawks. I’ve seen red-tailed hawks here in Blue Island, but most frequently I see the Northern Harriers that live in the neighborhood. Harriers are one of the few birds that actually hunt other birds.

I always stop and listen to the bird calls and watch the birds if they are within view. It’s a great way to get exercise and commune with nature at the same time. When the temperature gets up over twenty degrees again, I plan on slipping on my hiking boots and going out for a walk, even if there is some ice and snow. I may be lucky enough to see one of my cardinal or hawk friends. And here’s a tip. The next time you hear the cardinal singing his song, you will know that full-blown winter will end in two weeks. Honest! A little birdie told me so.