I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing

A few years ago in a forest in northeast India, I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounded meteorological, but it was the wingbeats of a pair of great hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They had massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they looked like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clambered around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, I found myself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It had nothing to do with what I wanted or what I possessed. It was the sheer gorgeous fact of the great hornbill, which couldn’t have cared less about me.

The radical otherness of birds is integral to their beauty and their value. They are always among us but never of us. They’re the other world-dominating animals that evolution has produced, and their indifference to us ought to serve as a chastening reminder that we’re not the measure of all things. The stories we tell about the past and imagine for the future are mental constructions that birds can do without. Birds live squarely in the present. And at present, although our cats and our windows and our pesticides kill billions of them every year, and although some species, particularly on oceanic islands, have been lost forever, their world is still very much alive. In every corner of the globe, in nests as small as walnuts or as large as haystacks, chicks are pecking through their shells and into the light.

~ Jonathan Franzen, from Why Birds Matter, and Are Worth Protecting (NatGeo, January 2018)


Photo of Great Hornbill by Roham Sheikholeslami

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Notes:

  • Photo: Hongkiat (via Your Eyes Blaze Out).
  • Post Inspired by Richard Feynman: One kid says to me, “See that bird? What kind of bird is that?” I said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of a bird it is.” He says, “It’s a brown-throated thrush.” Your father doesn’t teach you anything!” But it was the opposite. He had already taught me: “See that bird?” He says. “Its a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian, It’s a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it’s a Mom da Peida. In Chinese, it’s a Chung-long-tah, and in Japanese, it’s a Katana Tekeda. You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts.” (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (First Day Back!)


Photo: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call




Photo: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

T.G.I.F.


Source: Your Eyes Blaze Out

Miracle. All of it.

World’s smallest birds is just one of several distinctions that hummingbird species claim. They’re the only birds that can hover in still air for 30 seconds or more. They’re the only birds with a “reverse gear”—that is, they can truly fly backward. And they’re the record holders for the fastest metabolic rate of any vertebrate on the planet: A 2013 University of Toronto study concluded that if hummingbirds were the size of an average human, they’d need to drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda for every minute they’re hovering, because they burn sugar so fast. Small wonder that these birds will wage aerial dogfights to control a prime patch of nectar-laden flowers. […]

[Photo Caption] Hummingbirds often brave downpours to gather the nectar needed to avoid starvation. This Anna’s hummingbird shakes off rain as a wet dog does, with an oscillation of its head and body. According to researchers at UC Berkeley, each twist lasts four-hundredths of a second and subjects the bird’s head to 34 times the force of gravity. Even more remarkable: Hummingbirds can do this in flight as well as when perched.

~ Brendan Borrell, from Unlocking the Secrets behind the Hummingbird’s Frenzy (National Geographic Magazine, July, 2017)

Do not miss full story & photos taken with high speed cameras


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Breakfast!


An Atlantic puffin holds a mouthful of sand eels on the island of Skomer, off the coast of Wales. (wsj.com, Rebecca Naden, Reuters, July 18, 2017)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

guira-cuckoo-bird


Photo: Guira cuckoo (South America) channeling its inner grump at Idaho Falls Zoo by Dee Otter Photographer Deidre Lantz  (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

When I was a little girl…

“When I was a little girl,” she told me, “my parents took my brothers and me to the Grand Canyon. You can actually see all that space over the canyon, you know. I never forgot its breadth, how delicate the colors of the rocks and the sky and the trees were that hung in it. I wanted to fill that space up, to be inside it like a bird, graceful, rising, falling, flying long, winding spirals from the rim down to a landing far below.”

~ Barry Lopez, from “Field Notes: The Grace Note of the Canyon Wren


Notes:

Angels in our Midst

No wild animal lives so freely and in such variety and numbers among humans as do birds. For that reason alone, our relationship to them is unlike our connection to any other wild creature. But there are other reasons, too. The intellect of birds is arguably the closest in the animal world to our own. Birds charm us with their ethereal songs, which are profoundly different from the sound of any other animal; in fact, some of the natural world’s most beautiful sounds emerge from the tiniest of birds. They are found virtually everywhere, from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropics and deserts to the concrete labyrinths at the heart of the world’s cities and the green patches of grass in front of our homes, and they are nature’s exclamation point, adding an unequaled burst of vibrancy to our lives. Birds came to the earth, an Australian legend has it, when a rainbow shattered and its shards of color turned into birds as they fell: the glowing, jewel-like reds, greens, and blues of the hummingbirds; the bold red, white, and black of the woodpeckers; the deep blue of bluebirds and indigo buntings; the slash of red on the shoulders of red-winged blackbirds and the full suit of red worn by cardinals…

One of the most important things birds do is remind us of our deep and abiding emotional connection to nature…What is going on in our hearts and brains when we observe these creatures? What moves people to spend hundreds of dollars a year feeding birds in their backyard, or thousands to travel the world to watch them? Throughout history, birds have been strongly allied with mystical properties. Might birds, then, also have things to tell us that science has yet to consider?…

In the end we will only conserve what we love, we will love what we understand, and we will understand what we are taught,” wrote Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forester. This book is my humble attempt to write about how a wide range of people interpret birds and to offer a few interpretations of my own, to teach something about this marvelous planet we call home and the fellow travelers with whom we share it, creatures who are able to fly halfway across the globe nonstop, dive ten times deeper into the ocean than a human, or fly backward and upside down and do many other things we cannot begin to comprehend…

I am in awe of birds.

~ Jim Robbins, The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future,  Spiegel & Grau (May 30, 2017)


Notes:

  • Post inspired by book review in wsj.com titled Angels in our Midst: “For mankind, birds are mediators between heaven and earth; they make our spirits soar. Bernd Heinrich reviews ‘The Wonder of Birds’ by Jim Robbins.”

    …In 19 chapters, some focused on individual species, others more general, Jim Robbins flits about the avian world, exploring the marvels of birds’ biology, the insights they offer into our own species and the history of their interactions with humans. His goal is “to help change the way we perceive birds, to move them from the background of our lives to the foreground, from the quotidian to the miraculous.” He shares his own “soul-stirring wonder” at birds’ “miraculous nature,” hoping to reshape our relationship with them and thus with the earth. The book is a must-read, conveying much necessary information in easily accessible form and awakening one’s consciousness to what might otherwise be taken for granted. Mr. Robbins, a reporter for the New York Times, says that he became a bird lover in 1980 while interviewing a falconer in Idaho. Together they watched as a falcon “dove, soared and wheeled. . . . I, too, felt I had, for a brief time, soared with the peregrine.” “The Wonder of Birds” reads like the story of a kid let loose in a candy store and given free rein to sample. That is one of its strengths: the convert’s view gives wide appeal to those who might never have known birds well. Most of us have lost the everyday connection that all humans once had with birds. We now have it mainly with the chicken in our McNuggets.”

  • Photo: wsj.com – A man feeds birds on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi. (Prakash Singh/Agence France-Presse, Feb 3, 2017)
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