The birding was my salt, the thing that was missing, that essential amino acid I couldn’t get from anywhere else. It gave me life and reminded me that I was part of life. […]
Some people experience serenity by seeing their home team win, others by spending time with a loved one or racing downhill on a mountain bike. For me, it’s watching birds—seeing them, identifying them, wondering what they’re doing, marveling at their powers of navigation, or simply taking in their exquisite beauty.
I love birds.
A big year is an informal competition among birders to see who can identify by sight or sound the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area.
Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn’t want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job…so instead he went birding…Neil shocked the birding world by finding 749 species of bird and breaking the long-standing Big Year record. He also surprised himself: During his time among the hummingbirds, tanagers, and boobies, he found a renewed sense of confidence and hope about the world and his place in it. (Source: Amazon)
Photo: Bluebird by Joan Schulz via Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota
Now when I hear birdsong, I feel an entry to that understory. When I am feeling too squeezed on the ground, exhausted by everything in my care, I look for a little sky. There are always birds flying back and forth, city birds flitting around our human edges, singing their songs.
If the wind is going the right way, some birds like to spread their wings and hang in the air, appearing not to move a bit. It is a subtle skill, to remain appreciably steady amid the forces of drift and gravity, to be neither rising nor falling.
But we had long ago shed our busyness. The basic measure of time, the tempo around which we arranged ourselves, the water lapping, the sky slowly changing from paper white to cobalt blue, was the tempo of boating retirees. Or maybe it was the tempo of firebrand revolutionaries on a wildcat strike against industry. Either way, we were Not Working. We had desynchronized from productive time frames. My chronic sense of being late for some appointment dissolved. I heard the clicking of the musician’s shutter and looked up to see the western grebe stretching and spreading its wings. Then the western grebe retracted its wings and went back to floating.
What is worth singing about? What if the song is too small? Books will tell you that birds sing for a number of reasons— to call to each other, to warn of predators, to navigate, to attract mates. But I wasn’t so much interested in what the books believed. I wanted to know what the musician believed. “Why do birds sing?” So, at the end of our first bird walk together, I asked. I wanted him to say they sing because they have to, because they must, because it is part of their very essence, an irrepressible need. […]
Slowly the musician nodded his head. Finally, he said, “Okay. It’s possible that birds may sing just for the joy of it.” I don’t know why his response made me so happy but it did.
The musician became a bird lover at the aviary. He tells a story of holding a dying finch one day and feeling overwhelmed by its tiny heartbeat. He had never studied a bird so closely before, never observed its delicate and immaculate plumage, and the experience altered him.
The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.
~ Kyo Maclear, from How a stressed woman found solace through looking at birds (Macleans, January 22, 2017)
Find Kyo Maclear’s new book on Amazon: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation
Photo: Thank you Sawsan @ Last Tambourine
15° F, feels like 5° F. Winter.
Gazing out the window with Haight: “How is it that the snow amplifies the silence…”
Fox, with its long bushy tail, glances right furtively, tip toes through the snow and disappears.
Finches flutter to the feeders, feed, then flit away. Seeds darken the fresh snow below.
A shovel scrapes a driveway down the street, scarring the silence of the morning. Plows awaken in the distance, cold steel to asphalt, teeth on tin foil.
Oil heat courses through the veins of the house, warming. (Families, less than 50 miles away in the boroughs, huddle to warm, thermostats turned down, working to make budget.) [Read more…]
Heartwarming moment with man rescuing sparrow after its wet feet froze onto a water tank pipe. The footage was shot in Idaho, USA, shows the man pressing his palm against the bird’s feet to free it from the ice before blowing on them.
“While feeding my horses on New Year’s morning I noticed a solitary sparrow perched upon the steel fence near the water tank. The tank is heated to keep it from freezing. It is not uncommon for birds to drink from the heated tank. Apparently this unfortunate bird had gotten its feet wet and, while making its exit, had become frozen to the fence in the prevailing near zero Idaho temperatures. First, I attempted to warm the feet of the frightened bird by pressing my palm against both the fence and the birds feet, while also gently restraining the bird’s flapping wings. It then seemed that warming the birds feet with my warm breath would bring quicker success. Gentle sideways motion with my thumb brought freedom for the frightened bird and a smile of satisfaction to my face… a delightful way to start a new year.” (Source: Newsflare.com)
Hundreds of pieces of lint bangin’ around upstairs, but none stretch into a fluffy middle or knit to a checkered flag at the end. Flash. Flash. Flash. Blah. Nothing there. Nobody home. Nobody. Nothing.
When you bathe yourself in Mary Oliver poetry, her essays, her shorts – and when you waterboard your Blog followers with her Art, should there be any wonder of the source of the crippling doubt, the wellspring of inadequacy? Come on DK.
So here we go. In-n-out of her ethereal breezes to my…
It’s daybreak, yesterday. We’re on the way to Mianus River park for a trail run. The gauge reads 27° F, and wind chill is knocking that down. We’re on a cross-street in Stamford, five miles out. There’s no traffic. I stand at a red light. Anya‘s in the trunk, peeking between the head rests; outside, water vapor from the exhaust pipes spills into the cold and flurries of white smoke cloud the rear window.
My attention is pulled right. There he was. A Pigeon. He’s sitting on a ledge on a wall of the building lining the street, at my eye level. He’s looking at me, me at him. [Read more…]