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.
give and take–
from both sides
Cedar waxwings are social birds, known to gather in large flocks for eating, where they can often be seen feeding each other. Their food sources include cedar cones, fruit, and insects, and they migrate in groups when all the local fruit, their favorite meal, has been consumed. They are also attracted to the sound of running water, and can be found bathing in both creeks and fountains.
A group of waxwings is called a “museum” or an “earful”–they can be quite loud.
I also posted about the cedar waxwing a year ago–a good December bird I think.
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.
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.
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.
Nina’s internet has been out since the tropical storm, with no promises of when it will be back, so she took a photo on her phone of her bird and sent it to me to post. Another colorful tribute to Draw a Bird Day!
And hopefully her internet will be back soon so she can post more of what she’s been doing.
The Carolina wren is common throughout the eastern United States, but it is more often seen than heard. Ground dwellers who prefer the undergrowth near forests, they live in pairs, and are believed to mate for life. The male is the most vocal, but they can also be heard in duet. Although shy of humans, these small brown birds are active and inquisitive.
deep rivers wander
tree to earthstone,
brown birdsong grows wild,
seeding wind with ancient light
A gogyohka from the Oracle for Colleen’s #tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice.
we decoy ducks–turn
them into sitting targets
for the play of guns,
cartoon them with characters
that ignore their balanced grace
I did a lot of drawings and paintings of ducks and found them to be a challenge. Often they ended up looking more like decoys than something alive. I was interested to discover that the expression “sitting duck” came from how easy ducks are for hunters to shoot and kill–less sport than slaughter.
I also did not know that they spend 2 weeks in late summer or early fall molting, replacing all of their feathers. During that time they can’t fly.
Mallards are good parents, and prefer shallow freshwater wetlands to raise their families. They are one of the most recognizable and abundant duck species in the world, and ancestor to most strains of domesticated ducks.
For Colleen’s #tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice. I’ve written a tanka.
I follow you
into the dark crescendo
of sleepless nights
I was inspired to draw a nightingale by Rose Ausländer’s beautiful elegy, “My Nightingale”.
Once upon a time my mother was a doe.
The gold- brown eyes
stayed with her from the doe-time.
Here she was
half angel half human –
the middle was Mother.
When I asked her what she would have wanted to be
she said: a nightingale.
Now she is a nightingale.
Night after night I hear her
in the garden of my sleepless dream.
She is singing the Zion of the ancestors
she is singing the long-ago Austria
she is singing the mountains and beech
forests of Bukowina.
sings to me night after night
in the garden of my sleepless dream.
Once again, Draw a Bird Day is holding the fort at memadtwo, hoping Nina will be back soon.