This is the 33rd in our 50 Days of Chicago Nature. Read previous posts here.
Like so many, Sarah Scanlon lost her job in March at the start of the pandemic. The actor/director had been working a "day job" in the hospitality industry, an industry hit especially hard by the stay-at-home order. So for Sarah, online searching for jobs has become a big part of her daily routine.
"I'm looking for new work and having eye breaks [from a computer] is a nicer part of the routine," Sarah says, "and knowing the world hasn't completely gone to [heck]."
Sarah and her partner had moved into a home in the North Park neighborhood a little before the pandemic hit. During those eye breaks, she takes a look out the window at her backyard, where she has a bird feeder she received as a housewarming gift from her mother. She's seen 26 species in her yard so far.
"My mom is an avid birdwatcher," Sarah says. "Maybe it sounds odd, but doing some birdwatching feels like some additional connection to family and some normalcy in the day to day."
Around the third week of April, Sarah saw something truly unexpected at her feeder: a young male Summer Tanager, a relatively scarce bird in the Chicago area. At the advice of a friend, Sarah joined the Chicago Ornithological Society's Facebook page and posted a few photos of the bird in hopes of confirming her identification. The photos of the colorful bird drew a massive response on the page.
"It's just really been an exciting thing to see who's going to visit today," says Sarah, who's TV work has included shows such as "Fargo." "It's like a treat. Your brain is searching for a reward and you get a little dopamine hit [when a bird arrives].
"The birds are still out there and still hopping around like there's nothing wrong. We are experiencing something that most in our lifetime have not experienced, and the world hasn't actually ended. It's just really been a really exciting thing to see who's going to visit today."