Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wings Upon the Evergreens

The winds are getting colder and the snow is beginning to fall. Winter is fast approaching.
Written October 24 2011

Wings upon the evergreens, sheltered from the wind
Sparrows, robins, nuthatches to the tree are pinned.
Gales whip their feathers round, bitter cold and strong
Winter comes and winter goes; it always stays too long.

Between the icicles cardinals flock, red and warm like fire
Though the coldness never dims, the birds will never tire.
Chickadees and woodpeckers chatter in the snow
Perhaps they speak of seasons past or the way to go.

The birds, they fluff their plumage out while the wind blows it astray
They dream of spring and sunny flights a thousand weeks away.

~Peace always,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perfection Found

Gliding with something beyond grace, the swifts sweep through the amber sky on needle wings. Their bubbling voices scatter notes like raindrops on all ears in range as they effortlessly twist midair in their sunset frenzy. Their feathers fan and fold with the changing winds, hairpin turns making for spectacular displays. Quickly, quickly, they zip over and under one another in a chaotic yet elegant whirl. Carefully reckless and abandoning any concept of impossibility, the birds hungrily fly into the wind. The bristles on their bills ruffle erratically. Nothing is between the swifts and the horizon; they have their sights set on the end of time. Barley distinguishable wingbeats carry them closer with each passing second. Their simple task of nourishing themselves on airborne insects has evolved into a dance of freedom, a passion for the sky and an unimaginable vigor radiating from their feathers. Minuscule in comparison to the atmosphere are the swifts, yet they decline to acknowledge their apparent insignificance. The birds are simply overflowing with energy and ability and life. Their tiny shadows ripple over the surface of the earth, the only reminder of their reality. Divinity is found not in distant starry fantasies, but in the feathered beings in the skies above our heads. We need not scour the universe for perfection, for it is present in birds.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The White Bird's Shadow

Everyone has passion, obsession, and admiration. Some of us feel this towards practical things, such as cooking or crafting. Some of us feel this towards birds. I like to think birds are the better option, opening eyes and hearts and minds to so much more than what's expected.

When one has a passion for birds, there's something about said passion that goes beyond normality. Birds awaken something within us, inspiring us to do things for birds we'd never do for anything else. For example, would I stand for seven hours fully exposed to the frigid lakefront gales for anything but birds? Highly unlikely.

This morning I did exactly that-- stand for seven hours on the shore of Lake Erie, with the Ohio Young Birders Club for our Big Sit. It should have been called a Big Stand In The Cold, really. Oh, the things we do for birds. But we had a blast, and we saw birds, and we raised money for conservation: time well spent, in my opinion! 30 species were tallied, including

  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Caspian Tern
  • Bald Eagle
  • American Coot
  • Bonaparte's Gull
  • Great Black-Backed Gull
  • Greater Yellowlegs 
and more! It was quite an experience and definitely great bonding time for all. I enjoyed talking with Ken Keffer as always, and Kayla, Nathan, and the other teen birders! Kenn Kaufman paid us a visit, sharing his knowledge in his friendly, easy-going way. ( I know am better able to distinguish immature Black Backed and Herring Gulls! Thanks, Kenn!) And then we have Mrs Kim Kaufman, who is ~awesome~ (hi Kim!). She also let me wear her BSBO jacket because I was freezing even with 6 layers on...oh and of course when I was changing into my new BSBO shirt, the wind was crazy. She attempted to block it with a blanket but the wind hated us. Thank you, Kim, for the valiant attempt. ;-) 

Let's not forget the "Exotic" species we spotted today. Some were pretty rare, so, prepare yourself:

  • Crazy Blue Coat Lady (go go go around the corner! flush that Green heron!)
  • Yellow-shorted Man (call the human hotline!)
  • Tumbleweed #1
  • Tumbleweed #2
  • Tumbleweed #3... and so on
Yeah, we were so desperate for new bird species to add to our list, we started watching the tumbleweeds. They kept making for the large groups of gulls and geese, only to swerve at the last second. We discovered they're quite strong sails against the wind...don't stand holding a tumbleweed in the direct wind! 

In all seriousness, though, we had tons of great bird sightings. We witnessed a pair of Bald Eagles bring in a duck as prey, and munch on it before bathing. Bonaparte's Gulls flew all about, flashing their white wing edges. American Crows flapped around the beach. Turkey Vultures flew low over the masses of mallards and geese. A young Greater Yellowlegs let us get some great looks at it, along with some Great Blue Herons. Ruddy Ducks proved a challenge to identify as they bobbed far out on the lake, but perhaps the hardest identification was the single American Coot in between the Ruddies. The wind made it impossible to keep the scopes steady, and those waves were crazy! The Great Black-backed Gull was a nice sighting, and we also saw two banded Canada Geese.

I was amazed at the resilience of the birds; they were standing in frigid water with bare feet and a single coat of feathers for protection against the wind while us humans were bundled in multiple layers and still shivering... there were even a few butterflies flitting around in that crazy breeze!! Nature is AWESOME. To think of the migration all these animals must's just insane. 

The day closed with my viewing of The Big Year, which is an outstanding film. It's actually quite inspiring, and had me laughing and smiling the entire time. I highly recommend it.

Truly, birds are amazing ; so amazing that sometimes I have a hard time believing such wonderful and astounding creatures exist. I know I profess my love of birds in almost every blog post, but they deserve it. Every day my passion for them is renewed as soon as I see the first Goldfinch out my window, or hear the first Killdeer calling as it flies over my house. I look at a bird and ponder its existence: how can something so small and light fly so far each spring and autumn? How do such delicate objects as feathers withstand beating winds and rain and snow to carry birds through the sky? 

Do you ever look at a bird and have only its shadow to confirm its reality?

I call this the 'white bird's shadow' effect: think of an egret. They are so light on their feet, always ready to take off. Their presence is buoyant and ethereal, and their pure white feathers glow in the sunlight. They are magical...angelic...almost too good to be true. Sometimes only their shadows remind me that they are, in fact, real...

~Peace always,

Saturday, October 8, 2011


dedicated to our neotropical migrants. wishing you all a safe journey.

There was no turning back. It had to be done.
The urge to fly coursed through her, greater than anything she had ever known. The desire to spring forward and spread her wings was immense, but still fear held her back. No matter that she had done it once before, when she was even younger—she was still afraid. Afraid with good reason, of course…death was omnipresent, united with the very breeze ruffling her feathers. She cocked her head to one side and closed her eyes, mentally conversing with the internal forces that would guide her home. They were loyal; born with her and prepared to die with her.  They were whispering, fly. South. Fly
            She obliged. There was barely a sound as she took the first wing strokes of her journey. The sun, the waves, and the wind were all reaching for her, but she did not respond. She simply flapped her wings and left the cold behind her without a backwards glance.
            It had begun.


a quiet poem about a loud subject

A deer has many options when arriving at the entrance to her woods.

She may choose to take the path rendered soft and silent by her comrades,
Following blindly those who have gone before her without a second thought.

She could tread through the fallen leaves,
Both alerting herself to predators and proudly announcing her presence.

She may move amongst the newly sprouted undergrowth,
Leaving her scent for others to follow though not quite making a noticeable track.

She could skirt the borders of the forest,
Avoiding conflict and confrontation but removing herself from discussion.

Yet the deer has another option:
To stand frozen at the entrance too afraid to proceed individually,
Waiting for a friend to come along and guide her.

Yes, this is a choice the deer and her kin must make daily.
It is also the most important resolution they will make;
their lives and peaceful existence depending on their decisions upon entering the woods.

The Art of Listening in the Woods

yet another essay

For many of us, value is lost in the constantly changing world around us. Out of touch with ourselves and our environments, we go about our daily lives concerned with what’s next and never with what’s now. We thrive on the practice of planning ahead and giving only partial attention to the present. Future-oriented and often frightfully oblivious to problems other than our own, our society is endlessly moving forward but rarely does it ever slow enough to appreciate the lessons of today. By taking a moment to slow life’s pace and step outside, we will find ourselves happily awakening to beauty and wisdom we would have otherwise passed by.
            One afternoon, I was accompanying my brother and dad on a golfing outing—I don’t play but I tag along for the chance to view and photograph wildlife.
At one of the tee-off points I noticed a slight doe grazing across a hill. I had brought my camera and started to make my way slowly to the doe. She eventually bolted back into the woods nearby and I returned to my family. As they finished playing that golf hole, I decided to check once more for the doe. I was very surprised to see her peeking out from the hedgeline right at me. I gently sat down and watched intently. To my great shock and delight, the doe deliberately stepped over the hedge line and walked towards me, her gaze never once wandering from my face. Gingerly, but without fear, she walked straight at me. I was shaking from the sheer wonder of the event, and in awe of the creature coming towards me on her own accord. I took some great photographs, in many of which she was looking right into the lens.
            Any move I made was noticed and noted by the doe. Although the encounter had begun with a mutual curiosity, her instincts were, at certain instances, stronger than her personal desires. I made a point to stay as still as possible in a nonthreatening position.
            Minutes passed and she began to graze not ten feet from me, alert yet comfortable with my presence. I sat, soaking in her grace and perfection. Her giant brown eyes gave new meaning to the term ‘doe eyed’. The looks she gave me were not at all those of a lesser beast; in fact they were those of one wiser than I in many aspects. Her youthful face belied the life experience I knew she had.  This was not a creature deserving of human victimization; this was an intelligent being who possessed infinite abilities and pieces of knowledge beyond our comprehension.
            Ultimately the forest called to her wild heart and sent her stepping away, but when she reached the treeline, she stopped to look over her shoulder at me before dipping into the mottled light of the woods.
            This doe taught me to be patient and let life come to you, for when you allow life to take its course and decline to interfere, it will appreciate your respect and grant you small put powerful windows into its mysterious ways.  Since the encounter with the doe, I have reminded myself countless times of her selfless gift of companionship. Her lesson hangs in my consciousness, prompting me to take my time and savor the small things in life. In this way I have learned respect as well as patience. Life has much to teach us, if we only listen.

~Peace always,

Nothing Special, Something Special

an essay

The wind was strong and the skies were grey, past overcast but not yet ready to classify as stormy.  Two female Belted Kingfishers rattled their disapproval while they rocketed after each other. Turkey Vultures soared in the distant gloomy skies. A duo of Sandhill Cranes honked and trumpeted as they flapped large wings in tandem. A Mute Swan and her mate placidly sunk their heads underwater to dabble in vegetation.  A bald eagle was perched atop a dead tree, allowing a chance to marvel in his presence until he took wing—and it was incredible. He was close and rushed past on powerful wings across the marsh. He was going very fast, and made rounds around the entire lake complex. As he passed over furiously, the flocks of waterfowl burst into the air in a domino effect. He reached the opposite side of the marsh and swept onto another tree to sit guard. As he finished his flight, the waterfowl already flying and those still swimming began to flock midair and, to my absolute wonder, formed a massive group and flew over my head like a plane: sweeping and quick, with an impossible scale. Widgeon and ruddy ducks and shovelers and mallards and teal and others… it was a one of a kind event, and it’s why I love birds. Even in a moment of panic these beings managed to emit a collective beauty and synchronism unparalleled. They sputtered to a stop around a wise looking Great Blue Heron, his feathers puffed in the cold. His dark colouration and calm demeanor gave the impression of a wise sentinel looking out for the waterfowl. It was in this state I retreated into the forest full of winter Yellow-rumped warblers, leaving the birds to their wonderfully mysterious ways. 

~Peace always,