sometimes in dreams I
remember a time when my spirit was
lifted by stars, silent
as a secret, and then
suddenly moonbound dark and
ancient and reawakened—like the
hushed feathered womb of owl
wings singing in a windswept quaver
Another orange and black bird for the Year of the Tiger. The striped owl is found in Central and South America, inhabiting savannas and semi-open grasslands.
My poem is another Golden Shovel, with lines extracted from Arthur Sze’s wonderful poem “The Owl”. I’ve used it before as inspiration, and probably will again.
And I’m sure owls will show up, as they have before, on Draw A Bird Day as well.
my eye attempts to join
with wings, lifted
by an unseen wind–
a blurred displacement
of air expanding the horizon
beyond all sense of limits–
the sky trembles, held
in a featherlight embrace,
as if it, too, would rise,
into the cosmic sea
A quadrille that includes the word eye for dVerse, hosted by Bjorn. It’s not specifically about an oriole, but in the spirit of Draw a Bird Day.
The Baltimore Oriole, named for its orange and black feathers that are the same colors as Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms, summers in the Northeastern and Central United States and Canada, migrating to Florida, the Caribbean islands, and Central and South America in winter. New World orioles are not related to Old World orioles, but are part of the blackbird and meadowlark family.
Residing in forest edges and open woodlands, the oriole’s diet includes insects, flowers, and fruits. They especially like ripe fruit, and can be attracted to bird feeders with orange slices or sugar water. They weave unique hanging nests that look delicate but are remarkably strong. You can see photos and read more about their nests here.
Females and young males have a subtle grey and golden coloring although females grow more orange with each molt, and may end up close to the bright male coloring as they age.
Orioles are not endangered, but they are in decline, partially due to their preference for nesting in elm trees, which have been devastated by Dutch Elm Disease.
Orioles are the second of my orange and black birds for the Year of the Tiger. You can see the first one, the Rufous Treepie, here.
In your native landscape
they call you taka chor—
always wanting more, more–
Filling trees with loud calls,
to be both heard and seen–
crow to the core
The rufous treepie, a long-tailed bird native to India and southeast Asia, is known locally as taka chor, or “coin stealer”. Like all corvids, it loves shiny objects, and has no misgivings about taking anything that catches its eye.
Also, like all crows, it will eat pretty much anything, and is intelligent, adaptable, and opportunistic.
Primarily arboreal, it feeds mostly among the forest cover, and will often hunt with other bird species to flush out more insects from the trees. As its woodland habitat decreases, however, it has learned to live in urban parks and yards, and has no problem eating discarded human food or road kill, if that’s what’s available.
I chose the rufous treepie while looking for orange and black birds in honor of the Year of the Tiger. That may be my bird theme for the year–there are many to choose from.
The poem is an abhanga for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. Appropriately, an Indian poetic form.
The top bird was done with brush and ink, the middle one is neocolors, and the bottom one is colored pencil with ink outlines–I found a feather quill pen I bought years ago in a box. It’s a bit tricky to use, and I’m out of practice. But I enjoyed working with it again.
white flash winging
The Western Meadowlark, a resident of western and central North America, is not actually a lark, but is related to blackbirds and starlings. Like larks, though, it is one of the few birds that sings as it flies. The black crescent on its bright yellow breast and the white flash of its tail feathers when flying make it easy to identify.
Though not yet considered endangered, breeding populations have declined 50% in the last 50 years. The meadowlark’s favored habitat of wide open fields and natural grasslands has been declining due to agriculture, housing development, pesticides, invasive plant species, and fire suppression that alters the composition of native landscapes.
I’ve written a gogyoka for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday color poetry challenge.
of the sun, spirit
extend us your wings
Eagles are one of the world’s largest birds, with massive wings that allow them to fly for a long time and with great speed, all with a minimum of effort. They can go many weeks between meals, and will eat whatever is available in their habitat–other birds, amphibians, fish, small mammals. They can carry up to four times their own body weight, but will often scavenge for food rather than killing live prey.
“Eagle eye” is not just a saying. An eagle’s vision is eight times sharper than a human’s–they see both much farther, and with greater focus. They can also see a wider range of colors, including the ultraviolet spectrum.
I decided to do an eagle this month because Nina sent me this wonderful wooden eagle that her father brought back from Jerusalem. I have a bird totem carved by my sister-in-law’s father that Nina thought would make a good companion–and it does.
Although I began by drawing bald eagles, I realized after a bit of research that Nina’s eagle was more likely a golden eagle, which was once a common inhabitant of Israel, but is now only represented by a few breeding pairs, for all the usual reasons–decline of habitat, human predation. So I drew a golden eagle as well.
My poem is a shadorma. The eagle has powerful symbolism in cultures all over the world. Thanks, Nina, for adding this beautiful totem to my living space!
eyes that penetrate
I had a dream awhile back about hearing a bird calling. Looking for the source, I found it was a tiny owl. It let me get up close to it, but when I tried to take its photo, it went into my daughter’s shirt pocket and hid. Of course I had to try to identify what this owl could be.
As with my hoopoe dream, I recognized it immediately when I saw photos. The Eastern Screech Owl is a robin-sized owl, and would easily fit into a pocket. They are common throughout eastern North America, and though they prefer woodlands, have adapted to living in both cities and suburbs. These owls do not build nests, but depend on tree holes that already exist, often those abandoned by woodpeckers. They will also use nest boxes. Active from dusk to dawn, they eat mostly insects and small rodents, but have been known to catch small fish, as well as frogs and lizards. They also eat other birds, as owls are prone to do.
Their call is unusual, more like a whinny than what I would associate with an owl. Definitely not a screech.
Owls are considered old souls, prophets, protectors, keepers of ancient wisdom. They are also associated with death. But as with the Death card in the tarot, death is never just an ending, but a beginning as well.
As to what my dream meant, I still haven’t puzzled it out.
I didn’t have time to paint an owl this week, but I did a third quick drawing without looking at the page. A good exercise which I should repeat more often.
“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.
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.
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.