My morning rendezvous with the birds on the balcony of my home in Jerusalem, began many years ago, when I first met my son-in-law’s mother, a Holocaust survivor. At the time, bread was highly subsidized in Israel, very cheap and many people threw it out when it became a day old.
She told me how a crust of bread often meant the difference between life and death in Auschwitz and she would beg her neighbors to give her what they didn’t want. She would take the bread down the street where there were donkeys, and she’d feed it to them.
There are no donkeys around my home, but I never forgot her words, and since then could never throw away a piece of bread. So I decided to feed the birds, putting out the crusts and stale slices every morning on my back balcony. For most of the year, when it’s sunny, we eat breakfast and now the birds come and breakfast with us every day.
At 6 a.m., there are one or two sitting in the branches of a tree below our balcony. They know me now——they twitter a few notes, and soon there are thirty or more different birds coming, from surrounding trees, waiting to partake of their breakfast.
I have read that there are 470 species of birds that visit Israel through the seasons——very few regions in the world can boast of so great a variety within such a small geographical area.
The reason for this wealth of birdlife is that we are situated at the meeting-point of three continents Europe, Asia and Africa. Israel is also located along one of migration routes of Eurasian birds, forming almost the only land bridge between the Mediterranean and the Arabian deserts. Birds visit on their way south to Africa in the autumn and back north again to Europe and Asia in the spring.
Near the bread, I also put out a container of water, and many of them appreciate this——either to drink, or they land right in it and have a bath. The most unusual bird that has come to visit so far, I identified through a picture in a book as a red-throated pipit.
It is about 15 centimeters in length with a wingspan of 27 centimeters. The throat is russet brown and so is the breast. I found out that it comes from northern Scandinavia, and it turned up one winter morning. Then it disappeared for a few months and came back in the spring.
I don’t know if it was the same one, but I like to think it was, that it had enjoyed my hospitality and remembered my balcony.
It is very therapeutic to make a special place in your home where you can enjoy nature, whether it be birdlife, flowers or herbs.
No matter how elegant or comfortable the interior, make a spot on a balcony where you can overlook a garden or trees if you don’t have your own. There you will find beauty and stillness, free from noise and distractions.