November 28, 2016 by 16 Comments
November 18, 2016 by 15 Comments
August 24, 2016 by 23 Comments
Once I witnessed a windstorm so severe two 100-year-old trees were uprooted on the spot. The next day, walking among the wreckage, I found the friable nests of birds, completely intact and unharmed on the ground. That the featherweight survive the massive, that this reversal of fortune takes place among us — that is what haunts me. I don’t know what it means.
~ Mary Ruefle, Remarks on Letters from Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
August 8, 2016 by 11 Comments
Remember the giant whooping crane on the county highway
whose mate had been hit, stretched out dead at the center
of the road? She stood by him, wings open and flapping, shrewd
voice anxious, screaming, her dark red crown bowing in her descent
through the rim of despair. With each oncoming car she took a short
running flight to get our of the way, pacing the side of the road until
she could return to him. The next day, when still there, exhausted,
wings tattered and brown, we scraped what left of her lover
off the asphalt with a snow shovel, and laid the body on the low,
dry treadgrass by the embankment. The birds had come that July
to our swill, which had filled with monsoon rain. She stood there
close to us, in the still, yellowing grass, her interminable legs wobbling
underneath her body. The long toes of her feet twitching. That
shallow silver dish of my mind chattering, lay hold of me. Lay hold.
~ Elizabeth Jacobson,”Lay Hold of Me,” The American Poetry Review (July/August 2016)
July 3, 2016 by 37 Comments
DK: How much for the bird seed?
DK: $40? Per bag?
DK: How many bags a month?
I do the math: (# bags) x (months in a season) x ($40) x (10 years) = blood pressure increase. And the torment was first recorded here in this post: Squirrels. Cardinals. Bumble Bees. And Me.
Pick any spring.
Or any summer, or any fall for that matter.
Or any year, for the past 10 years that we’ve lived in this house.
The picture: Same.
I’m sitting, reading in the backyard, transported to C.S. Lewis‘ world of becoming of a thousand men and yet remaining myself…seeing with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see. But, what I see, damn it, is Vermin.
Interrupting my bliss is their rustling. Their relentless rattling of aluminum, scratching and clawing at seed. Hanging upside down, these ravenous beady eyed creatures work to empty the bird feeders one by one – frightening off the intended recipients, who flutter up to the leafy branches overhead until the insatiable keel over from exhaustion.
May 29, 2016 by 22 Comments
Hang in there to the end of this video…
I’d gone out, come back around, only to find one thing. I was older. And, here I was trying to make sense of things. To say there is nothing out there is incorrect. To say that the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth. I still dream, but I’m not restless anymore.
May 22, 2016 by 13 Comments
I hope to define my life, whatever is left,
by migrations, south and north with the birds
and far from the metallic fever of clocks,
the self staring at the clock saying, “I must do this.”
I can’t tell the time on the tongue of the river
in the cool morning air, the smell of the ferment
of greenery, the dust off the canyon’s rock walls,
the swallows swooping above the scent of raw water.
Jim Harrison passed away on March 26, 2016
May 14, 2016 by 13 Comments
Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons will elegantly twirl, swoop, and glide above the East River, as artist Duke Riley orchestrates a series of performances occurring regularly throughout late spring. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.¹
Fly By Night pays homage to pigeon keeping, both in New York and farther afield. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and kept by people around the world for their companionship, sport, and service…Fly By Night reflects back on and makes visible this largely forgotten culture. The iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard, once home to the country’s largest naval fleet of pigeon carriers, is the ideal setting for Riley’s Fly By Night–a tribute to the beautiful, diverse and fascinating histories of pigeon flying and New York City.¹
On Thursday evening, the pigeons taught everyone on hand quite a bit about their intelligence, their ability to collaborate with earthbound beings and their beauty when airborne. Despite clouds and chilly temperatures, the birds’ performance was a revelation, a touching unity of human and animal behavior, with sky, water and the city…Most special about watching these pigeons was the silence of their flight. Somewhat like trees, but more mysteriously, they seemed to make visible the wind’s movements. They also created a soundless music heard with the eyes, a Beethovian swirl of melodies and themes. Both sensations brought a sharper appreciation of space and air as active or sheltering forces that we share with all living things.²
Thank you Susan. Excerpts from:
- Creative Time
- NY Times Review: In ‘Fly by Night,’ Pigeons Light Up the Brooklyn Navy Yard
April 26, 2016 by 22 Comments
Jennifer Ackerman provides a masterly survey of research in the last two decades that has produced a revolution in our understanding of bird cognition…Scientists once assumed that difference (in brain size) equalled inferiority, but this has proved to be as false as the notion that brain size is an indicator of brain power. It appears that what counts is neural quality, and the avian equivalent of the cerebral cortex has proved to be as densely packed with neurons as our own…
Species such as the western scrub and the blue jay store away many thousands of seeds during autumn and retrieve their food supply when the winter pickings are slim. In recalling their stores’ whereabouts, the birds have an impressive success rate of over 70%. And even their failures often imply high intelligence, because they result from theft. Jays not only store seed supplies; they also steal from their store-hiding neighbors. This behavior requires feats of memory but also leads to some astonishing corvine trickery. If a bird is aware it has been observed while burying food, it will often go back and re-hide it elsewhere. A further indication of complicated thought processes is the fact that only scrub jays with experience of stealing show a capacity for these sneaky countermeasures. In short, even among birds, it takes a thief to know a thief.
One of the most fascinating parts of Ms. Ackerman’s survey is her chapter on bird song. The avian counterpart to the human larynx is the syrinx, a double-sided complex of muscle, cartilage and delicate membrane that is probably the most sophisticated producer of sound in all nature. Birds learn their songs at an early stage in their development and then replicate those vocalizations with astonishing millisecond-long discrimination and accuracy. In one study, a Ph.D. student competed with a zebra finch, whose brain weighs less than a gram, and was shown to be vastly inferior to the bird in his ability to reproduce faithfully a single four-“word” sentence. While spectrograms revealed the human words to be hopelessly variable, the finch repeated its song phrases with perfect, machine-like consistency…
- Post Inspired: “As the birds know, who fly the continents, the oceans, for their secret reasons, a map of the earth written inside their bodies, marked under their breastbones: a continuance of the now most fragile, always travelled patiently enduring world.” ~ Hilda Morley, “Sea-Map”
- Read longer excerpt from Lithub: The Genius of Birds
- Image Source: beatrice lechtanski photography (via Staying Lifted)