Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole and partakes of the perfection of the whole. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bird watching requires specifics.

Though I think the activity should be called bird searching.

One needs to study a Sibley or a Stokes guide, or any other for that matter, before heading out. Because, one does not want to point out a Northern Cardinal only to be told that what you behold is a Scarlet Tanger, a far more rare and precious thing.

That majestic bird above you is no hawk, that is an osprey. Wait for his dive; apparently they can fly at 80 mph.

Learn the specifics of as many birds as you can. The world opens up to you just a little more if you can name the birds; your journey will have a few more companions when you can recognize the fearless little chickadee or more shy cousin, the titmouse. Learn to identify their wacky cousin, the Nuthatch. He’s a crazy little bird with all of his hanging upside down.

To name a bird, an animal, a bush, a tree is, in a way, to own it. To possess it, to know what it does, how it fits, how it works.

If you can be specific about what you are pointing at up in that tree, if you have named it, you can point out that bird is an osprey and, if you wait, and if you’re lucky, you will see him dive bomb the water, pulling out a fish.  I recommend that you do this while sitting in a kayak. Don’t worry, the bird will probably ignore you.

To know a bird is to know where it lives, to see what it eats, to look when it flies away.

I search for birds. A solitary walk in the woods becomes a little lonelier without the rustle of the birds in the brambles or the woodpecker banging his head against a tree. When I walk in the woods, I feel as if I am mastering a new language; not a foreign language but a language that teaches me the past, present, and future of where I live.

Like reading a book for the first time, I learn new words, new references, new ideas.


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