Fine Feathered Friends

I seem to have stopped talking about birds here. Why, Roger. Birds are so awesome. So freaking awesome. They’re really an inherent part of my life now; whenever I’m walking outside, between classes or running any number of errands, I’m unconsciously picking up distant songs and calls, and silhouettes of birds in flight. Though the birding has been slow, there’s been enough moments to keep the flame alight this semester.

Northern Harriers soaring over campus, and a stunning adult male that I watched from a Kohlberg window during a break from class, the bird silently catching the wind towards parts unknown.

Crum Meadow exploding with thousands of sparrows, constantly calling from alarm or hunger or a simple need to socialize, flying everywhere and turning the meadow itself into a living, moving creature. I managed to pick out single Swamp, Chipping, and Field Sparrows from the fray of White-throated and Song Sparrows, but the spectacle alone was enough to floor me.

Surprised by a Brown Creeper climbing up a tree in front of Wharton, and watching it as the sun slowly set, until I realized that I was somehow 20 minutes late for tennis with Kira and Luis. Somehow, I still beat Luis to the courts.

Finding a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working on a tree beside Mertz, and watching it drill its neat rows of holes around the tree, until I realized that I was somehow 30 minutes late for breadbaking. I hope they didn’t mind.

The day my heart was broken from a friendship turned ugly, and the Winter Wren and the flock of juncos offering their solace at the end of the trail. Fortunately, things have been patched up since then.

Working on papers when a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in for a visit, right outside my dorm room window. She sat and watched me, watching her, watching me. For ten minutes, no words were spoken as the boy and the bird watched each other, until she decided that she was hungry and had better things to do, and rushed off in a flurry of wings.

Too often when I’m birding, I find myself caught in a race to find as many species as possible in an hour, in a day, through a week, in a season. It’s particularly true during migration when dozens of stunning neotropical species pass before my eyes, or when I’m visiting a new place filled with new birds (Australia, anyone?).

Finding that first Painted Bunting or Island Thrush is certainly an incredible adrenaline rush, but it’s an unsustainable and unhealthy addiction. Finding small pleasures in the common everyday birds is the only way for me to keep my interest aloft, or to keep me alive, really.

Take that as an analogy for life, if you wish. Or, not. I wasn’t thinking of it that way, to be honest. I just said it as more of a joke, but take from it what you will.

Links:

  • The New York Times presents the Best Ideas of 2006. A long, but rewarding read.
  • The man who created the Green Lantern and also helped with the design of the Pillsbury Dough Boy has passed away. Rest in peace, Mr. Nodell.
  • A family in Pakistan carries a genetic trait which makes them immune to pain. As cool as that may sound at first, it turns out to be a useful lesson in evolutionary biology.
  • Wikipedia article on the beauty of mathematics.
  • An old telegram in which Buckminster Fuller explains Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
  • Practicality at its best, a tiny cellphone which just makes calls. Hott. Needs to be produced.
  • Those crazy Japanese have invented a machine to make toast, eggs, and coffee at the same time.
  • Tech Geeks Only alert: Upgrade your wireless router’s signal with just a simple downloadable firmware upgrade. If you’ve got Airport Express as well, even better.
  • Regret The Error is known for posting typos and other goofs made by media outlets, here’s a roundup of the year’s highlights.
  • Radar profiles the world’s most extravagant dictators.
  • The amazing lives of parasitic fungi. The video on the site is just mind-blowing.
  • And finally, in the spirit of the season, you can use Google Earth to find Santa’s workshop now! The Google team has also placed gifts around the world for you to find, clues to be found at the workshop. Good luck!
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