“The forests are getting silent”
–Hanna Mounce, Maui Forest Bird Recovery
always more words, less
vast human wasteland
Eight birds from the Hawaiian Islands were on the official extinction list released by wildlife officials last week. Honeycreepers, descended from finches, are only found in Hawaii and have been losing species ever since explorers started bringing in invasive animals and diseases and destroying habitat in order to profit from the land.
Almost all the remaining honeycreepers are endangered. Besides their visual beauty, they pollinate native plants and keep insect populations under control.
Mosquitos, which are not native to the islands and arrived in the early 1800s, are one of the biggest dangers. They are hard to control and impossible to eliminate. The Avian Malaria and Avian Pox they brought has decimated the lower forest dwelling birds. As honeycreepers have retreated to higher elevations, climate change has followed them, raising the temperatures of the upper forests to levels that mosquitos can tolerate. The Maui Forest Recovery Project is working to save forest habitats and the plants and animals that live in its unique ecosystem.
I’ve written a shadorma this week for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.
Just a piece of earth surrounded by walkways, tables with chairs and benches, buildings. A dorm, a student center under renovation, classrooms, a hedge.
Always there are birds. Hopeful begging sparrows, robins searching the grass even in snow, starlings flashing yellow beaks, the red of cardinals and the screech of blue jays. A mockingbird that serenades for nearly half an hour one morning. A nuthatch on the trunk of the tree. A flicker, often heard but never seen. A hawk overhead, and Crow, always loudly demanding attention. New birds we can’t get close enough to identify clearly. We look at photos online and argue about what is closest to what we thought we saw.
Students wander past, occasionally sit for awhile. Children and dogs play on the lawn. But often it’s just the three of us—two coffees, one tea. We walk from uptown and downtown to meet for a few hours together on a sleepy college campus, with the sky above and the sounds of the city fading far away.
turning voices gather un
der branches soon bare
The top photo is of the doors of a Columbia University dorm that sits on one side of the place my daughters and I often meet. Obviously not built recently…
Also written for Brendan at earthweal who asked us to consider how nature and humans can adapt to each other to provide places for both to thrive.
You can join in Thursday doors here.
a loud mouthed gathering
of white crested coral–
A Badger’s hexastitch for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday and Draw a Bird Day.
Galah cockatoos are native to Australia, where they live in large flocks on open grasslands feeding on seeds, berries and insects. But they also can be seen in urban settings, where their raucous calls and adaptations to human habitation are often considered nuisances. The word galah means fool or clown in the Aboriginal language of Yuwaalaraay and is used as such as a derogatory term in Australia (or so the internet tells me…any Australians reading this can confirm or deny)
Cockatoos are highly social and intelligent, and are bred and sold as pets. But these very traits make them not only very high maintenance, but possibly destructive and dangerous. I’ve written about this before–these animals should not be confined and separated from the flocks that are their natural social groups.
hands threading needles
delicate like wings
flexible strong like branches
like rivers singing
ancient ancestral patterns
releasing through re
peating remembering re
vealing what was always there
For Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt, a Chōka. Jules provided the theme of discovery.
I come from a family where all the women were textile artists of some sort–sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, embroidery–my grandmother even worked as a hat maker before she was married. My mother started me embroidering at a young age, and we did the bird kits, above, together. She loved the color red and cardinals, so that was hers; I stitched the blue bird. And I discovered how much I loved embroidery.
My mother never had the confidence to do her own designs, but always encouraged me in my own explorations. I think of her, and all the women in my family, every time I pick up a needle.
Atlantic Puffins are seabirds that breed in large colonies on cliffs or offshore islands along the North Atlantic coast of both Europe and America. When not breeding, they spend most of their time on the ocean.
Each time I look for information about the birds I draw, I find declining numbers, even if they are not yet endangered. Habitat destruction. Declining food sources. Overhunting.
Puffins are no exception. How to reverse these trends?
Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end. No magic formula to suddenly turn things around.
It’s a process. No moment exists when the fragility and interdependence of ecosystems reaches perfect balance, when humans can relax and ignore the repercussions of our behavior. We must remain always aware, always learning, always willing to make necessary changes to insure continuity. To keep the circle connected and alive.
I challenged myself to see if I could take Merril’s quote from Jo Harjo and do a prosery for dVerse. It actually fit the theme of Draw a Bird Day quite well.
“Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.”
Here’s some information about Atlantic Puffins:
–Their wings become flippers underwater. They are excellent divers and can reach depths of 200 feet.
–The hinges on their beak allow them to carry several fish at once.
–They have been observed using sticks as tools.
–Their nicknames are sea parrot or clown of the sea. Puffin chicks are called pufflings.
–Puffin colonies are referred to as a burrow, a circus, or an improbability.
–Puffins mate for life and often return to the same nest or burrow. They lay a single egg which both parents brood for several months.
–They spend the winter on the open ocean, rarely returning to land.
keeper and creator
measuring magic by the moon
For Colleen’s #TankaTuesday poet’s choice and for Draw a Bird Day, a didactic cinquian.
The Egyptian god Thoth was often represented as an ibis, or an ibis-headed man. Like the sacred ibis bird, he was associated with knowledge, wisdom and the moon, but also much more. Scribe to the gods, he taught men to write. He was the reckoner of time, “he who balances”, a scientist and magician.
Millions of ibis birds were mummified in Ancient Egypt as offerings to Thoth. The sacred ibis is now regionally extinct in Egypt, although it is still found in other Sub-Saharan African lands.
One species of ibis found in eastern American coastal regions is the glossy ibis. From a distance it appears to be a mostly uniform dark color, but close up its feathers become an iridescent rainbow.
Today is #WorldMigratoryBirdDay. The glossy ibis flocks that breed along the NE coast migrate to the Gulf of Mexico for wintering. As with all shore dependent migratory birds, saving our natural shorelines are one key to their survival.
Also linking to earthweal open link weekend.
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.
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.