Birds, Brains and Semi-Retirement

Our yard is full of psychologically needy birds, and my husband is the reason. 

For those of you who know this man that God gave me, you must realize he will not grow old like the rest of the pack. He informed me at his semi-retirement date, that old people are supposed to garden and watch birds. Neither of us has prepared well for this. 

I do not like dirt. It has things in it that are dirty. Crawly and itchy. And then there is the problem that my thumb has black death on it not green growth. 

Birds are ok I guess, but my idea of watching them stems from my childhood on the farm. Barn swallows and sparrows. Our farm birds never had to be fed. They fended for themselves. If you could choose between bugs, worms or store bought seeds from a bag, which would you have for dinner. I rest my case.

I prefer to sit at the window with a cappuccino, and watch from afar. 

That’s me.  

Enter the Semi-retired-of-course-Husband. 

Bird watching is a science and undoubtedly an art.

Who knew it could be so…consuming? 

There is now a little black speaker hidden in our tree, reinventing the status quo retirement expectation. What worries me are the messages the birds receive from the app on our phone, (oh, yes, there is an app for that). Who ever recorded the bird songs did not translate them. I’m pretty sure our birds are confused. I can tell by the way they carry on conversations with each other and my husband. 

Should a bird do this sort of back and forth? Is it natural? 

Some birds actually fall for it so much they hop closer, close enough to see their perplexed beady eyes, and beaks agape.  

“What? I thought you said it was dinner time?”

“Isn’t it your turn to feed the kids?”

“What do you mean you’re not a Cardinals fan?”

It must be disconcerting for them when they realize they’ve been duped. Blue jays bawl us out. The ravens are quothing. Some birds swoop uncomfortably close above me and my cappuccino. Others, I fear need counseling. 

Can you imagine the effect on a bird’s psyche if he follows the mating call to an inanimate object held by a human? Or what does a black speaker hanging in a tree do for a fine feathered friendship? What if it’s disrupting natural birding instincts? Are we chewing them out or praising them?

“Love that color on you.” 

“I told you to stop pecking your feathers.”

What if the crow starts singing the bluebirds song or the thrush imitates the finch? 

The crazy thing, if this is the summation of success, is we now have a bird paradise. Where once there was the rare bird sighting, now it’s like Alfred Hitchcock directed “The Birds” from our back yard. 

They come from miles around. 

“Hey, come over to the Schroeder’s.”  

“It’s a riot.” 

“Breakfast seeds are the best in town.”

Truly rare birds are no longer so truly rare on the Schroeder lawn. 

But, I myself am so muddled, I can’t tell when it’s Phil’s app and when it is the real thing. I’m forever asking after a bird call, “was that you, honey, or a real bird?” 

There is an entire orchestra so loud that we can hardly talk to each other, and I’m pretty sure I sighted a black crow with a baton in his yellow claw.  

We have four kinds of woodpeckers, thrush’s, finches, cardinals, not to mention those pesky blue jays, bluebirds and I’m looking for the partridge in a pear tree. 

“Oh there goes the Carolina wren.”



“No, that’s the dark-eyed Junco.”

“Could that be a white-breasted Nuthatch?”

Well one thing we have established, birds of a feather do indeed flock together. And as I watch them do so, I discover in my daily Bible reading, how often God included birds in His Word. I never considered God a bird-watcher, but the Creator always cares for His creation. And this is the sweet lesson of these bird days. 

“I know all the birds of the hills…” Psalm 50:11 ESV

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…” Isaiah 40:31 ESV

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26-27 ESV

Yes, we are definitely on the path, my husband and I. The process makes me feel a bit bird-brained myself, but my husband? Well, he is a genius.


Come visit anytime. There is only a slight admissions fee. 

*Photos by Philip Schroeder

28 Replies

  1. Don Dyck Reply

    What a great read! And what a great idea, Phil! I myself am approaching semi-retirement – that stage between having retired from being a pastor and taking on the next assignment, hopefully one that doesn’t include saying, “Welcome to Walmart…” or asking, “Do you want fries with that?” I have the bird app but never thought of putting a speaker in a tree. I’ll have to try that. Love reading your blogs, Sylvia. They are inspiring and uplifting.
    Your cousin up in the north country but from further down south, Don.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Don, Can’t tell you what a pleasure to hear from you and I’m honored you read my blogs. Phil is delighted to have you join him! Maybe it’s in the blood.

  2. J.D. Wininger Reply

    Your post brought a little laughter and both smiles and contemplation my friend. Remember, Mr. Phil could have brought a two Herefords and a Braford. 🙂 God’s blessings my semi-retired friends.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks J.D. I would so love for you and Phil to meet. I have a feeling you two would hit it off quite well. Grazie!

  3. Daneen Campbell Reply

    Oh, Sylvia, this brought so many chuckles! At our house I’m the one who “tends the livestock” in the backyard. Even if the feeders are empty, Gary just ignores them and waits for me to fill them. Sunday morning two cardinals actually flew directly at the screen porch because their “breakfast” wasn’t there! Our God does make beautiful creatures!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Daneen. Love that they have trained you well! And yes. God’s creatures are amazing.

  4. Sally Stotts Reply

    Sylvia I Loved EVERYTHING about this!😂

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Oh Sally! I love everything about hearing from you! Thanks so much. I’m honored you read it and enjoyed it!

  5. Gwynn Conrad Reply

    love you gentle humor. what a writing gift you have. love you and Phil too

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Gwynn. I so appreciate that you took the time to read and respond. I hope you are enjoying life at this interesting stage!

  6. Don Pahl Reply

    Thanks, Sylvia.
    In his retirement, my father listened to and watched birds as he loved trees and helped his community grow more of them. He also fed gophers / ground squirrels. Several tiny paths led from all over his yard to his swing. All God’s creatures!!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Don. What great memories! I guess, we leave the crumbs for the next generation, don’t we? May they lead to Jesus.

  7. andrew brucato Reply

    that’s Phil- love that man.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Yup. Me too! Thanks Andy. Always so encouraging to hear from you!

  8. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Your post offers beauty, humor, and inspiration. I love watching birds, but I’m quite ignorant of who says what. Maybe that’s why I had a good laugh as I read. Thank you for the day brightener.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Katherine, thanks so much for reading and responding. I am with you, but I’m learning! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Linda Brucato Reply

    definitely have to sign us up for a visit! After all these years I can only identify a few birds!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Trust me, you are in for an education!! Thanks Linda. Come anytime!

  10. Nancy E Head Reply

    I love this post, Sylvia. We don’t pay enough attention to nature today–and we tend to know so much less than our forebears. Here, you offer a great way for us to learn, and appreciate, what’s out there! God bless!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks so much Nancy! Nature is amazing and I am learning to enjoy things I really hadn’t paid much attention to before. Grateful for the creativity of our Creator! Thanks for reading and responding!

  11. Carolyn A Eumurian Reply

    I had NO idea of the virtual aspects of the bird world. Leave it to Phil. I hope the entrance fee is modestly priced!

  12. Jeannie Waters Reply

    Sylvia, I enjoyed this entertaining bird’s eye view of your life. 😉 The verses are reassuring.

  13. Nancy Reply

    The post was so delightful that I had to read it again! I’m so happy to hear that C will be sipping cappuccino with you soon and experiencing your bird sanctuary!
    Looking forward to hearing the birds (and Kandern church bells) as I walk to church this morning!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Loving the time. The birds are delighted as well. Wish you could join!

  14. Anonymous Reply

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Lois S. Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I enjoy hearing about the birds!