Now here’s a tweet I can get excited about. As the COVID-19 pandemic crawls along, I want to stay safe and stay home. I wonder what to do to break the monotony besides shredding the mail, picking up leaves one by one and watching the greatest games of the last 50 years on TV. The answer? Start a Backyard Bird Challenge. Take the point-and-shoot camera and photograph birds in my neighborhood. It helps I live in the County Park Nobody Knows Of, thanks to my landlords and their cherry orchard and spacious lawns. A bit of Shangrila on the edge of the city. I’m no bird expert. I know a brown bird from a blue bird, and a black bird from a cardinal. Beyond that, I am gaining wisdom but will never catch up to the Mike Dennys of the world. Denny, naturalist extraordinaire, writes a monthly column for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, which I read like it was manna from heaven, trying to soak up knowledge head to toe and usually only getting my feet wet. Still, I figure birdwatching is a great retirement project. Only a few years away, I better start preparing now. It’s inexpensive if you take a minimalist approach: No top-of-the-line cameras, monopods and binoculars and birder clothing, shoes and hats. Yes, there are such things. It’s important your feet are comfortable as you take part in — soccer, eat your heart out — the world’s largest spectator sport. April is a great month for birding. May, too, for that matter. Birds in the Walla Walla Valley are active. While humans sit at home, getting cabin fever, joining the dog at the window when someone walks by on the street, the birds are busy. They are building nests, mating, establishing territory, feeding and probably even for a few seconds a day, sleeping. I’m fortunate my landlords, who live next door, appreciate birds. They even have condominiums on which the birds pay no rent. They especially like their jenny (house) wrens, and the lesser goldfinches, which visit their feeders constantly and have voracious appetites for thistle seeds. Other birds are less frequent visitors. We see lots of dark-eyed juncos, a movie star bird with good looks. And this time of year, all over town, we hear the mourning doves tuning up for their parts in the bird orchestra. They visit our neighborhood occasionally, looking for a hand out, not a hand up. Most of the snags in the neighborhood have come down, unfortunately, but enough stand to give woodpeckers opportunities for drum solos. The echoes are deceiving. A walk through the backyard, and the sounds appear coming from all directions of the compass. A flock of European starlings use the front yard as their airport. The starlings are not uniformly popular with humans, due to their aggressive nature toward other birds. The birds may be bullies, but they do have shiny purple-black plumage and the ability to mimic — and scare the stuffing out of — the neighbor’s cat. Other birds I get pictures of, but, even after consulting my big book of birds, bought used at the annual AAUW book sale in Walla Walla, I remain mystified. Some are black birds, some are yellow, some are blue, but all are endlessly fascinating as they enliven the neighborhood in this strange spring.

Now here’s a tweet I can get excited about.

As the COVID-19 pandemic crawls along, I want to stay safe and stay home.

I wonder what to do to break the monotony besides shredding the mail, picking up leaves one by one and watching the greatest games of the last 50 years on TV.

The answer?

Start a Backyard Bird Challenge.

Take the point-and-shoot camera and photograph birds in my neighborhood.

It helps I live in the County Park Nobody Knows Of, thanks to my landlords and their cherry orchard and spacious lawns.

A bit of Shangrila on the edge of the city.

I’m no bird expert. I know a brown bird from a blue bird, and a black bird from a cardinal.

Beyond that, I am gaining wisdom but will never catch up to the Mike Dennys of the world.

Denny, naturalist extraordinaire, writes a monthly column for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, which I read like it was manna from heaven, trying to soak up knowledge head to toe and usually only getting my feet wet.

Still, I figure bird watching is a great retirement project. Only a few years away, I better start preparing now.

It’s inexpensive if you take a minimalist approach: No top-of-the-line cameras, monopods and binoculars and birder clothing, shoes and hats. Yes, there are such things.

It’s important your feet are comfortable as you take part in — soccer, eat your heart out — the world’s largest spectator sport.

April is a great month for birding.

May, too, for that matter.

Birds in the Walla Walla Valley are active.

While humans sit at home, getting cabin fever, joining the dog at the window when someone walks by on the street, the birds are busy. They are building nests, mating, establishing territory, feeding and probably even for a few seconds a day, sleeping.

I’m fortunate my landlords, who live next door, appreciate birds. They even have condominiums on which the birds pay no rent.

They especially like their jenny (house) wrens, and the lesser goldfinches, which visit their feeders constantly and have voracious appetites for thistle seeds.

Other birds are less frequent visitors.

We see lots of dark-eyed juncos, a movie star bird with good looks.

And this time of year, all over town, we hear the mourning doves tuning up for their parts in the bird orchestra.

They visit our neighborhood occasionally, looking for a hand out, not a hand up.

Most of the snags in the neighborhood have come down, unfortunately, but enough stand to give woodpeckers opportunities for drum solos.

The echoes are deceiving. A walk through the backyard, and the sounds appear coming from all directions of the compass.

A flock of European starlings use the front yard as their airport. The starlings are not uniformly popular with humans, due to their aggressive nature toward other birds.

The birds may be bullies, but they do have shiny purple-black plumage and the ability to mimic — and scare the stuffing out of — the neighbor’s cat.

Other birds I get pictures of, but, even after consulting my big book of birds, bought used at the annual AAUW book sale in Walla Walla, I remain mystified.

Some are black birds, some are yellow, some are blue, but all are endlessly fascinating as they enliven the neighborhood in this strange spring.