Entries in birds (9)

Tuesday
Jul232019

Jungle Dawn Chorus

Starting out in the morning fog on the Las PiedrasThe dawn chorus in the jungle has a particular bass beat, like a deep wave washing through the dense trees, or like the earth itself is exhaling. What is that, I wonder. I’m sitting in a dinky plastic pack raft on the Las Piedras River, cradling my camera, and straining to see something in the green on green on green that lines the river. I’ve set out with three others on this foggy dawn float, but they are already a bend and a half down the river so I feel alone. Alone with the caiman lounging on the sandy banks and the Pied Lapwings tip-toeing along the river’s edge. Alone with the Parakeets that flock across the river, screaming their destination and their joy. Alone with the Sunbittern and the Hoatzin, bi rds that seem created from an artist’s fantasy of a bird. Alone not at all.

 

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Sunday
Jan242016

Malheur is for the Birds

Even Grosbeak; Photo by Peter SchoenbergerI love the word malheur, the way my neighbor in France sighs over the weather or a chicken that is ill: Quel Malheur. It’s impossible to translate the woe of the world, the adversity of life woven into those two words. Quel Malheur. But the Malheur in the news these days is the 187,000 acre Refuge in Eastern Oregon where a group of armed men are staked out, and not planning to leave.

In three days, I will slide into my Subaru wagon, loaded with skis and snowshoes, and head west, for Oregon. I’ve chosen a northerly route, through North Dakota and Montana, two states I have never visited. I’ll stop along the way, in search of northerly birds, hoping for such treats as a Great Gray Owl, but also less glamorous but still wondrous species for this Eastern girl, like Gray-crowned Rosy finch, or Evening Grosbeaks.

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Sunday
Jan102016

A Small Difference

Ucross, Wyoming, population 25, is situated just east of the Bighorn Mountains, on the western edge of the Powder River Basin. It’s 20,000 acres of high desert sagebrush, rubbing up against wetlands, grasslands, and riparian habitat where the Clear and Piney Creeks run. It’s ranchland, dotted with cows and emptiness, studded with boulders tossed from space; there are pockets of petrified wood and lots of cool birds. And the news this fall is that all of this land is now designated an IBA— Important Bird Area—a designation made after careful review by the Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy. 20,000 acres of protected land where birds can breed or migrate through unmolested, is not much in the grand scheme of this planet. But for a few key species—the Greater Sage Grouse and the Long-billed Curlew —these 20,000 acres is a big difference, perhaps the difference of survival.

 

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Sunday
Aug242014

Dead Bird

The river was windy last night. Both current and wind were against me as I shoved south in my kayak on the Hudson River. To the side, I saw a lump in the water. I assumed it was a fish, and was hesitant to pull near—marinating fish is not a smell I enjoy. But the shape was not entirely fish-like, so curiosity won out. What I found floating in the water was a gull, its bill hooked through the slit-like nares, by a fishing lure, and the web of its feet hooked by the other end of the lure. It was clear what had happened: the bird had come down to the shiny object expecting a fish meal, was caught through its bill and, in trying to liberate itself with is feet, entangled itself further. The lure hooked the bird to itself, bill and feet joined to shape the bird into a circle.  It then plunged into the water and drowned. Not too long ago. The body was soft in my hands, and the feathers intact.

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Thursday
Mar272014

A Birdy Day

Snow Geese in flightThrough the winter on the east coast, I’m happy when I see and hear a few birds in the day. There are house finches at my feeder, the goldfinch, and a black-capped chickadee or two.  And, of course, the reliable woodpeckers, the sapsucker letting out its little mew sound, the pileated cackling in the woods. But these birds are like finding little diamonds in a vast landscape.

So when, on Sunday, my friend Bruce Robertson and I went out to see what ducks were coming through the valley, I was stunned by the masses of birds. Hundreds of Canada Geese congregated on the fields at Greig Farm and a flock of over 100 Snow Geese with their black tipped wings skittishly took off, circled and landed. In every direction I looked there were birds coming in or taking off. A puddle of ducks—the puddle just freshly melted ice from this interminable winter—brought me a Pintail with its elegant neck and an American Wigeon.

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