Friday, May 08, 2009

Enchanting Song



For me, there's nothing quite as enchanting as the melody of a Wood Thrush's song in the background while I'm birding. Being intentionally sentimental, its early morning phrases beckon an invitation to enter the woods for a few hours of exploration and discovery.

Often when leaving my apartment in the morning before birding, I change my FaceBook status to reflect this activity. In doing so, my intent isn't to proselytize the pastime of birding to my non-birder FaceBook friends, but I managed to attract the following comment:

"I have no interest in birding other than those that cross my path while I'm persuing [sic] other pleasures... Birds are like the colorfull [sic] sprinkels [sic] on cut out cookies: really nice, I'd like to know what they are, I'd miss them a lot of they weren't there, but it's the cookie (or the frosting, in my case) that's of real interest."

I confess I was a little dumbstruck when I first read this. What does it mean? Is it the woods that are of real interest, versus that which inhabits luscious green canopies? I suppose the enjoyments of nature's aesthetics are often subjective and sentimentalized, but many of us who are birders also take a great interest in objectifying fauna and flora: mammals, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, plants, wildflowers, etc.

Does it help or increase one's enjoyment to know and document all the details, such as the phenology, behaviors, habitats, and food webs? Are we just stuffing pretty cookies in our mouths, or are we being mindful of the sprinkles, frosting, and the whole dang cookie? In truth, it's largely the decline of cookie acreage that's causing there to be fewer sprinkles. If we don't also see the forest for the birds beyond being merely decorative, when we want those sprinkles on our cookies, there may not be any left to enjoy.

"One who reviews pleasant experiences and puts them on record increases the value of them to himself; he gathers up his own feelings and reflections, and is thereby better able to understand and to measure the fullness of what he has enjoyed."

-- Viscount Grey of Fallodon – The Charm of Birds

Link: Bird Conservation - Mortality

Wood Thrush © 2009 Mike McDowell

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