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:

Lightly child, lightly.

I saw none of that;
the only birds were tiny and caged,
beating their wings against the bars,
chattering like distant voices in dreams.
I’ve forgotten how I got there. I know
I knelt to a cold stream to wash my face
and wakened to music, an odd beat,
a melody I’d heard before. I followed
the sound over a rise to the open field
where the sun poured down its grace
on the long grass, the animals, the men
and women. The wind kept prodding
at my back as though determined
to push me away from where I was,
fearful, perhaps, I would come to rest.

~ Philip Levine, from In Another Country (The New Yorker, February 11, 2013)


Notes:

  • Photo: via Your Eyes Blaze Out
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

5:00 PM Bell! Let them out!

One by one they opened the bird cages, and the sky filled with parakeets, canaries, lovebirds, and finches.

~ Isabel Allende, The House of Spirits: A Novel


Notes: Photo: Jim Bendon (Parakeets). Quote: Hidden Sanctuary

Flying Over I-40 South. With Bird Calls.


It’s been 9 months, and we receive a piercing reminder of the only certainties in life: Death and Taxes. Tucked way at the back of the mailbox, sits a single, slight envelope – a bill for the license fee for Zeke’s tags. He’s gone damn it. He’s gone.

Dog tags. Metal to metal, nothing rubbing, nothing jingling. Just nothing.  Inert, they lay in an extra coin jar in the mud room, on top of dirty pennies, dimes, nickels and a few silver quarters. His weathered, leather leash, without him on the end of it, has been stored, way away.  Loose Change. Bone to Bone. Dust to dust. Nothing.

Melancholia saddles up and storms in.

I pull up the covers, and shiver.

It’s Spring. Low humidity. Soft intermittent rains. And nights sleeping with open windows.

With no bird dog leaning in…with no bird dog head nestling, warming my feet, there’s no longer a need to keep windows closed. No need for closed windows to block bird calls, those bird calls which triggered his wiring, which set off that nose, those whiskers, that twitching against the thigh as he adjusts his head to get a better look and better sniff; those same bird calls which would launch this Man’s Best Friend on high alert, jacking up his pulse rate and his innate need to run, to find and to flush. You ain’t running here no more. This Man’s leaning in on himself and falling over.

The window is wide open. A bird call interrupts the dark and the silence. 3:43 am.

Does she sleep? Or like a dolphin, does half her brain shut down, so the other half can monitor predators? How does she wake each morning with a Solo and always between 3:40 am to 3:55 am? Is she singing? Talking? To whom? To Me? About what? Does she sleep in trees? In her nest? Warming her eggs? Singing to her babies as any Mother would? Rock-a-bye baby, On the tree top, When the wind blows, The cradle will rock. When the bough breaks

By 4:10 am, she has wound up the entire neighborhood, and we’ve moved from solo to choir.  Bird song lifts the gates, the silvery light of dawn shimmering – the tide sweeps away the heaviness: Lightly Child, Lightly.  And here it comes: playing in the head on a loop…“Ain’t no passing craze.  It means no worries. For the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata!”

The bird song reaches a crescendo, percussion, drums, guitars, horns, nature’s perfect harmony dragging my soul – Up, Up, Up.

Circle of Life Brother.

Circle of Life.



Inspired by:

The grief of the failed nest echoes in an entirely different register, but it is still a grief. In Tennessee it’s common for cardinals to nest twice in a season, hatching between two and five eggs each time, but few of their young will survive. The world is not large enough to contain so many cardinals, and predators must eat, too, and feed their young. It should not trouble me to know the sharp-eyed crow will feed its babies with hatchlings it steals from the cardinals, but I have watched day after day as the careful redbird constructed a sturdy nest in the laurel, and I have calculated how many days and nights she has sat upon those eggs, how many trips she has made to the nest to feed the babies, how many times she has sheltered them through a downpour. Day after day after day.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “Springtime’s Not-So-Peaceable Kingdom”, The New York Times · June 3, 2017

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)

I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings

For some weeks, I’ve been worried about the health of family and friends. Today I’ve stared at a computer screen for hours. My eyes hurt. My heart does, too. Feeling the need for air, I sit on the step of my open back door and see a rook, a sociable species of European crow, flying low toward my house through gray evening air. Straightaway I use the trick I learned as a child, and all my difficult emotions lessen as I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings. But my deepest relief doesn’t come from imagining I can feel what the rook feels, know what the rook knows — instead, it’s slow delight in recognizing that I cannot. These days I take emotional solace from understanding that animals are not like me, that their lives are not about us at all. The house it’s flying over has meaning for both of us. To me, it is home. To a rook? A way point on a journey, a collection of tiles and slopes, useful as a perch or a thing to drop walnuts on in autumn to make them shatter and let it winkle out the flesh inside.

Then there is something else. As it passes overhead, the rook tilts its head to regard me briefly before flying on. And with that glance I feel a prickling in my skin that runs down my spine, and my sense of place shifts. The rook and I have shared no purpose. For one brief moment we noticed each other, is all. When I looked at the rook and the rook looked at me, I became a feature of its landscape as much as it became a feature of mine. Our separate lives, for that moment, coincided, and all my anxiety vanished in that one fugitive moment, when a bird in the sky on its way somewhere else pulled me back into the world by sending a glance across the divide.

~ Helen MacDonald, excerpt from “What Animals Taught Me About Being Human” (The New York Times, May 16, 2017)


Photo: Gregory Colbert (Thank you Sawsan via Last Tambourine)

Photography (astonish the senses)

“Over seven days, dawn to dusk, flying over 2,000 miles, Zack Seckler brought his camera, and his unique vision, to South Africa, capturing an astounding world of land, sea, and natural life. Direct and complex, magically precise yet abstract, the images draw the viewer back repeatedly to the interplay of form, light, color, and composition. They, like the region, astonish the senses and engage the mind’s eye.”


Source:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Early bird catches the…)

early bird catches the worm


Photo: A fieldfare pulls an earth worm out of a meadow in Wolfsburg, Germany on Thursday. (Silas Stein, Associated Press, April 6, 2017, wsj.com)

Saturday Morning

‘When I was a girl,’ she had once told a friend, ‘I was terribly sure trees and flowers were the same as birds or people. That they thought things, and talked among themselves. And we could hear them if we really tried. It was just a matter of emptying your head of all other sounds. Being very quiet and listening very hard. Sometimes I still believe that. But one can never get quiet enough…

~ Truman Capote, In Cold Blood


Photo: skringers.com

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

birds

The birders I encountered in books and in the world shared little except this simple secret:

if you listen to birds, every day will have a song in it.

~ Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation 

 


Notes:

  • Inspired by: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.  ~ Neil Hayward, “Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
  • Photo via Mennyfox55
  • Related posts: Kyo Maclear
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