your flashy loud mimicry
a family trait
Continuing my explorations of the Corvid family, I decided to collage and draw a green jay this month. Residents of the Texas borderlands, they are also found in Central and South America. Like all corvids, they are intelligent, adaptable, brash, and have a large variety of vocalizations, including imitating the calls of hawks to drive away food competitors. They also use sticks as tools to pry bark up to get to the insects underneath.
Green jays live and forage communally, in family groups. The populations are currently stable, although habitat destruction is a concern, particularly in Mexico, and around the proposed border wall to be built through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Birds need no maps of the earth,
no compass to locate the forces
that pull and repel.
Their geography is larger
than what can be painted, written down.
Their landscape is contained inside
their very bones,
invisible roots woven through
Birds move on currents
of sun sky wind and water–
alert to the pauses,
in the movement of the light.
They hear the world
as it slumbers, as it awakens,
as it waits.
They have no need to build bridges
for crossing over.
Birds don’t need to mark their path,
to provide proof
of their connection to the cosmos
with signs or constructs.
Who they are
is part of their being.
The way is within
the first cell of
the first song of
the first particle of
dust from the first star.
I recently read an article about the red knot B95, nicknamed Moonbird. B95 is a banded bird that was both trapped and photographed through 20 years of migration between the tip of South America, where it winters, and the Arctic, where it summers and breeds, a distance of 9000 miles each way. B95 traveled enough miles to go to the moon and most of the way back–hence, Moonbird.
Considering the fact that one half of juvenile red knots dies during their first year’s mirgration, that is quite an accomplishment.
Red knots are robin-sized shore birds that have greyish feathers during their southern winters, but grow red feathers for the summer layover in the Arctic. As recently as 1995 there were over 150,000 red knots making the north-south-north trip, but half of the adult red knot population died between 2000-2002 due to climate change and human intrusions on their habitat. Of particular concern was the reduction of the horseshoe crab population in the tidal waters of the Delaware Bay, an important last feeding stopover before the final flight to the Arctic. Red knots time their migrations to coincide with the yearly egg-laying of horseshoe crabs, feeding on the eggs laid on the beaches. Horseshoe crabs are important to many other species in the bay as well, and scientists are working to restore this vital component of the ecosystem, which was dying due to overfishing and overdevelopment.
Red knots fly in acrobatic groups and perform evasive movements in unison meant to confuse predators like hawks. How do they “know” where to go? One theory is that they have an internal genetic flight map, but they are also known to respond to the position of the sun and the movements of the stars as they often fly all night. Red knots may also recognize both landmarks and magnetic fields. No wonder they have been called “a flying compass”
Moonbird was last spotted in 2014, 19 years after he was first caught and banded.
Red knots were the first bird ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.
voice of crow under grey skies–
how to fill the hole
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
for earthweal open link weekend
flashes of yellow
Last fall my daughter and I were sitting on Columbia’s campus, talking and drinking coffee and tea, when we noticed a tiny yellowish bird looking for insects in a tree nearby. It looked a lot like the wood warbler I’ve drawn, above.
We didn’t see it well enough to positively identify it, but a birder friend suggested from my description that it was a warbler. Many species migrate through the area, in addition to common local residents like the yellow warbler.
The Blackburnian Warbler can also be found in New York, but I haven’t been lucky enough to see one. I would like to watch the intricate aerial dances they perform when protecting their territories.
I first drew the yellow warbler by itself, and scanned it, as backgrounds are always a problem for me. I’m still not sure about this one, although I like the colors.
the world becomes new–
opened into new visions
One weekend sitting on campus with our coffee and tea, my daughter and I were surrounded by birds. A mockingbird sang a complicated repertoire of songs for about a half hour, blue jays and cardinals visited, crow got in a word or two, and there were lots of sparrows–at least we assumed all the small birds were sparrows–until one started going up and then head down around a tree trunk. Sparrows definitely don’t do that.
When I looked it up in my birdbook at home, I discovered it was a white breasted nuthatch. They like to forage in the bark for insects, and even cache seeds in the crevices. They are quite common in the United States, although I don’t recall ever noticing one before.
I had found my subject for draw a bird day, and wrote a shadorma to accompany the art for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.
I started this one a few weeks ago. It’s good that I’m trying to post some art every Monday because it makes me sit down and work. This one has the three figures in it but they were put in intentionally.
I wasn’t feeling inspired much. Took a walk with my husband and found this little bird wing. I’m hoping it’s just a piece from the bird and that the bird is still okay. It was a beautiful little find so I had to do a drawing.
Lovely weather here in New Jersey. I hope everyone has a good week. Nina
hungry birds scatter
blue wings appear
a raucous throng
A gogyohka for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice.
I’ve been hearing blue jays everywhere I go for the last month. Since I’ve already featured blue jays, I decided to draw and paint its West Coast relative, the Stellar’s Jay. Like all jays, they are excellent mimics, and imitate hawks to scare other birds away from food they want to eat. They also pretend to be dogs, cats, squirrels and chickens.
Stellar Jays prefer dense coniferous wooded habitats, but being scavengers and opportunists, have adjusted well to the encroachment of humans.
I’ve been doing these drawings starting with a swoop of a few blobs of paint with a large paintbrush.
My daughter doesn’t really pay much attention to my artwork. She looked at this one and said “this is our family”. Me, husband, daughter and daughter’s dog…I did not do this intentionally.
Where did this come from? The figures: a Keith Haring rip-off. The swoop I’ve been doing I copied from a TikTok artist (it is a lot of fun to do). But the content came purely from my unconscious mind. I’m sure of it.
There is so much terrifying stuff going on-not to me personally, but in the world, and everyone is affected. A generation of kids-especially the really young ones-are missing out on the beauty of going to school. Fires raging in our country and on the island of Lesbos, displacing thousands of people. I am pretty old but I wonder: will it be okay?
we find your habits
impaling your prey on thorns–
killing to survive
our own destructive
disconnected from earth–
we pull life apart
The Loggerhead Shrike, also known as butcherbird or thornbird, is a medium sized songbird that acts like a raptor. With a short hooked beak, but lacking the talons of a true bird of prey, it hunts in similar ways, diving from an elevated perch or hovering and flushing its victims. It then impales its food on thorns or barbed wire. It can kill prey larger than itself by spearing the head or neck and twisting at a very high speed. Sounds gruesome, no? And many of the reference photos I looked at showed it either consuming or impaling its next meal–amphibians, insects, lizards, small mammals, small birds.
But it’s part of the food chain. And that’s how it obtains it’s food.
Loggerhead Shrikes, like many birds, have become endangered as their North American habitats shrink or are destroyed. Climate change and pesticides have also caused populations to decline.
How did I post this? Several people suggested going into the WP Administration page where you can do a normal post without dealing with the blocks. I looked at the block again briefly, but without success.
Still in the midst of moving, but should be back posting (as long as I can do it this way) in a couple weeks.
I follow a Paterson site by a guy named Bernard Jaz Payne. He posts some great photos of old Paterson. This one is William Carlos Williams, a pediatrician/poet who wrote “Paterson”.
Here is the photo:
I recently bought a pad of good drawing paper (Arches 85% cotton) and it is much better than the sketchbooks I usually use. Doing this drawing on this paper was pretty rewarding. I could get different textures and shading much more easily.
Have a great week! Nina