Thursday, November 25, 2004
it seems my folks have finally gotten rid of all of the dead branches, and an entire dead tree, in the back yard, all major sources of a) food for birds and b) potential disaster in the form of falling wood and damaging power lines, etc...
so, there are far fewer avian inhabitants now. i did see one tufted titmouse and a Northern mockingbird this morning. Also, the crows are back in Maryland, having apparently made a partial comeback from West Nile Virus. When i lived here in 2002 the population levels had sunk to around 1/4 of their usual numbers. Everyone in the naturalist community was quietly worried that this might have been a harbinger of more destruction to come, but thankfully the other birds seem to be okay.
in the birds' absence, then, i spent part of my thanksgiving morning watching my dad out the front window as he raked leaves from the lawn, bending down periodically to scoop them up and place them in a green plastic wheelbarrow, and reaching up to adjust his hat.
Friday, November 19, 2004
oh there is so much good here in the land of collapse---shout out to Daniel Joseph Martinez who is heroic and damaged and hyper and california but he came to chicago for just one day. thank you Daniel for the critical matrix of materialism and artninja and semiotic landscape that is your work. Google him, people.
god, we just damage each other endlessly. our downstairs neighbor A. got her apartment trashed by thieves who took her daughter's new computer. the police said whoever did it may have made friends with the dog before they broke in. well, at least the dog has a new friend...
someone in northern wisconsin saw what looked to him like 50,000 ducks this morning.
for those just tuning in, this blog is about birds and birding as a practice and a process of being open and available to the world. but i haven't even picked up my binocculars in like 2 weeks almost so now i am writing about other things.
a man mumbled at me today on the street, mumbled insistently and indignantly--indignant, i suppose, that i said i could not understand him. it was a perfect illustration of our broken language, i think--i don't know but i think he was asking me for money. i told him the truth, that i had nothing but the minimum i needed to get through the day--and i THINK he asked if he could give me a hug. i think thats what he asked, but i'll never know, because i chose to end it there and said NO in an authoritative voice, placing a warning hand on the man's arm. why did i do that? because i felt irritated. not frightened, not threatened, just annoyed that this man was still in my face mumbling like he thought i could understand him. do people answer him when he does that? do they answer the questions they think he might have asked, and does he accept the answers or keep on asking? he ambled away as the bus came and knelt for me.
birds as witness
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
i often wonder what the birds believe about us, seeing us from above. i wonder if they pity us at all. we clearly do not know how to take care of ourselves as a species
a bird's eye view reveals the totality of human activity and suffering as ephemeral, barely significant in the larger theater of life on earth--but we manage to do some damage nevertheless. the destructive impact of our wars and industries leave scars on the land, disrupt animal populations, wipe out whole ecosystems. we build prisons, test nuclear weapons and even , in the name of progress or war, purposely destroy the things we build.
but from my perch atop the Michigan Avenue building, i see creation happening as well: people embracing, a woman holding a sign in protest of war, sailboats scudding across the lake, a man pushing a baby in a stroller. Dry leaves collect and roll in waves across the park, spinning into eddies of wind above the sidewalk.
let's not forget that we have very little time.
Friday, November 12, 2004
evidently, birds have been getting sucked into aircraft engines at an alarmingly high rate this year, resulting in engine fires and near-disastrous falling airplane parts in the suburbs around O'Hare
Offhand, the news anchors said that this was due to suburban sprawl--the birds are searching for open land and not finding it.
and yet there remain city birds, birds who don't seem to require the open land, birds like pigeons who can adapt and circle the updrafts between buildings in huge shimmering flocks.
why is that? why do some of us as sentient beings find it possible to thrive in crowded urban centers despite having been raised on a farm, or a distant suburb, or small town--while others, even though we were city children, feel nostalgic for the open land of American myth even though we never experienced it? Is ruralness in our DNA? Are some of us hard-wired to live in certain places? What landscape do we call home, and how do we know when we've arrived there? the birds are risking death by turbine to find their open land. what do we risk by seeking our home landscape? Better yet, what do we risk by not seeking it?
i wanna be a cowgirl
Monday, November 08, 2004
well, not really, but i am suddenly seized with the desire to live rurally. birders made an exciting find this weekend with the sighting of an Ancient Murrelet in Illinois, an extraordinary thing. a bird you wouldn't recognize at ALL unless someone told you what it was.
and you have to be rural to see that kind of thing, you know? you need tall grasses, and, like, gravelly roads and ponds, not like highway nasty ditch ponds, but like actual ponds with wildlife.
the city sucks, man. Gang tagging on the side of the house across the street that i have to look at every damn morning SUCKS. people screeching their tires in the middle of the night for no reason SUCKS. Liquor stores with dozens, literally dozens of men in the parking lot SUCK. Waking up to the sound of jackhammers SUCKS.
sorry to be so negativistic. i know the neural nets are forming, bla bla bla if anyone else saw that godawful What the Bleep Do We Know film. I....KNOW.
FORGET BALD EAGLES.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
My favorite new nomination for the National Bird:
THe SOUTH-EARED OWL, a bird which circles counterclockwise (THAT's LEFT) in search of prey, and which makes a high-pitched, gritty whirring sound, not unlike that of an axe-blade or guillotine being slowly and methodically sharpened.
Millenium Park showoffs
Monday, November 01, 2004
i almost forgot--last thursday i saw a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers flitting on some low tree trunks in Millenium park. They were quite friendly with passersby, and flycatching beautifully in the still fog after the rain.
everybody birds sometimes
hey everyone--the Illinois birders' list sent me this link to a soldier stationed in Iraq who is blogging about his birding activities. it seems he's been birding since he was 12...
i for one have been birding vicariously through other people on the list this week. i keep finding excuses NOT to bird--no car, not enough time, etc--but it's a practice which sustains me and which evidently people find a way to do even while at war. So i really have no excuse this week.
i did go out once last week and saw a brown creeper, about 15 juncos, 30 white throated sparrows, and a couple of chickadees, all in Grant Park.
One reason i haven;t made myself go out more is that the birders on the listserve have been reporting massive numbers of dead migrants in the city. it becomes a sort of grim scavenger hunt, which dampens ones excitement, despite knowing that death is simply part of the cycle, a fact of nature which anyone who interacts with nature will confront.