At first glance, as a blanket of snow covers the historic Old Town, nature seems to be asleep.
Yet upon setting out into the cold winter air, we are promptly greeted by voices of birds hovering overhead – as they soar amid the swirling snowflakes. Many of them have migrated from distant lands and traveled thousands of miles.
As they search for food amid the thick blanket of snow and ice, we are given the opportunity to share kindness with these beautiful birds.
From early childhood, my parents instilled in me the tradition of feeding wild birds during the winter months. Magnificent birds would arrive outside our window each morning for breakfast – to feast upon the delicious mixture of seeds and grains, which my father had poured into bird feeders. Some would return each day – we would recognize them by their colorful plumes and joyous voices.
Winters in Lithuania are similar to the winters of my childhood in New England. Each day, as we observe the beauty of winter, my family and I venture outside to feed the wild birds and ducks in our neighborhood.
Last week while feeding the wild ducks in the park – along the Vilnelė river – I noticed several park visitors observing us. Bundled up in their warm winter parkas and woolen gloves they looked out over the sheets of ice in the river and saw hundreds of ducks gathering to capture small morsels of food.
It was then that I realized that I should take action and reach out to the community – encouraging others to also participate in caring for the birds of winter. My prior grassroots activism efforts have successfully brought many positive changes to our community.
Upon contacting the Lithuanian Ornithology Society, I learned that while they do have a program for feeding wild ducks and swans near the city of Kaunas, they did not have any organized efforts to feed wild birds during the winter months in other cities or regions of our country. We discussed how to best accomplish this effort – both on a local and national level. Combining their knowledge and our deep rooted desire to care for birds of winter, the ‘Žiemos Sparnai’ (Wings of winter) initiative was born!
Within days we received an outpouring of support from the community. Farmers willingly agreed to contribute grains. Bird feeders will be placed in parks, squares and school yards. Ducks along the riverbanks are being fed. Educational brochures and presentations for school children are in the works.
I am delighted to see kindness shared with the wings of winter!