Jim Capel is in on a secret.
Well, more of a secret language. He listens to birds. He can hear their calls and identify them and, almost, understand them.
As a boy, Jim was a backyard birder. His parents gave him a bird feeder that he hung outside his bedroom window. He remembers watching the bluejays and squirrels fight over the food. But he didn’t become a serious birder until five or six years ago, when he heard the call of a bird in his yard that he didn’t recognize.
“It does this call – it’ll do it a thousand times a day,” Jim laughed as he recounted the memory. “You’ll get tired as heck listening to it.” What kind of bird was it? Jim scanned through a book he’d gifted his stepfather with bird calls in it.
“It was like a eureka moment,” he said, to discover the identity of the bird making such a racket in his yard: An Eastern Towhee, now his favorite bird. Jim started researching and identifying his backyard birds, gradually learning their songs. He watched them with a pair of binoculars his wife gifted him. He went on walks in the park. He took pictures of the birds he saw on vacation.
“Eventually I got a good pair of binoculars about three Christmases ago,” he said. That’s when it really took off, he told us. And now, 200+ birds and counting, Jim leads bird walks for the Eno River State Park, New Hope Audubon Society, and Wake Audubon Society.
Birding has become so ingrained in Jim’s life that he can’t help but watch and listen for birds wherever he goes. Whether he’s in the city or walking his dogs in the neighborhood, he keeps a list with him to record the birds he encounters. As a retired environmental consultant, Jim pays keen attention to obstacles they may face. Between predators, global warming, and habitat loss, he considers it “kind of a miracle, really, when you see them, that they’re still numerous and alive.”
It’s no wonder then, that Jim finds comfort in every chirp and warble he hears. If the birds can keep singing, he can weather the storms of life too.
“Birding brings it back for me. Just to be out, in the wild, and to be hearing all the birds around me, it’s so completely rejuvenating,” he shared. “I’m definitely happier for having done it, and for doing it.”
Written & Produced with Chelsey Griffith