Archive for February 12th, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #7- Wild Birds

They provide the city with nature and music to an otherwise quiet forest, sometimes with a cacophony.   As wildlife goes, birds are relatively benign, unlike moose, bears or snakes, and there is such a variety that endless communities of birdwatchers never tire of searching for and pondering them.  Even as a boy and newly-supplied with my first black-and-white camera, I loved photographing birds. 

I remember the first time I saw an eagle in the wild, a massive golden eagle in the Mojave Desert that seemed to stand about as tall as my 12-year-old body at the time.  It was about a quarter mile away, and we stopped and watched as it was joined by another gargantuan specimen with an unfortunate victim clutched in a claw.  Obviously a mated pair, they wrestled for a few minutes on the ground before majestically taking to the cloudless blue sky.  I had been hiking with other Boy Scouts and didn’t have my camera, but I knew there would be a lifetime of opportunities in my life.  I was right.

I often think about mammals having thinking brains, unlike most other types of life on the planet, but the more you watch wild birds the more you realize that they must also be thinking.  They watch their surroundings, contemplate their options, then decide whether to flee, fight or try something new.  I’ve seen jay birds figure out, after several attempts, how to open a squirrel feeder, and robins team up to fight off some annoying grackles.  They amaze me. 

There have been many sightings of intelligence in birds.  In Japan, carrion crows will place nuts on roadways for cars to run over.  Woodpecker finches have been seen trimming twigs to the proper length to use in foraging for insects.  Herons have been known to use bread and other scraps to attract fish for hunting.  They can often recognize who is filling bird feeders, and interact with different people differently.  Watching birds and witnessing their intelligent behavior can be a joy for birders.

Speaking of birding, I have been using the Cornell University site, ebird.com, to post photos and checklists of bird species found in various outings.  However, it might take me 10 different sites to locate the species of a specific bird I’ve photographed, and sometimes even then I’m unable to determine it with some accuracy and confidence.  It is fun, though, and I’ll continue to share my findings.

Many times, I have seen a bird of an uncommon species, like a yellow-headed blackbird or painted bunting, only to have it fly away as I scramble for my camera, even if it was close by.  Perhaps it was the only time in my life to see a member of that species live and up close, and I have to be satisfied with the single viewing.


I’ll close these musings with a quote from British journalist David Attenborough:  “Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?

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