|Birdsong Benedictions: A Celebration of Nature|
|Friday, 03 August 2012 00:00 | Written by Heidi Auman, Ph.D. | Blog Entry|
Many people don’t consider birds much, perhaps as merely a peripheral part of the environment, the vibrant color and nimble fluttering only touching the edges of their awareness.
I have studied birds for many years as environmental health indicators and their status in complex food webs. However, my feathered friends offer a more profound purpose as a reminder of where I am as I wander lonely corners of the planet.
The dawn chorus reveals where I am as I awaken from the fog of semiconsciousness. Laysan albatrosses mooing and whinnying gently prompt me that I am on Midway Atoll, living in a former Navy barracks. The kazoo-buzz of king penguins aid my awakening to residence in a converted water tank on sub-Antarctic Heard Island. Keening herring gulls tell me I am rousing from an undersized boat on the Great Lakes. Wherever life deposits me, yodeling common loons, laughing kookaburras or chuckling chickadees send the earliest suggestions to my drowsy brain as to my location. Unless I hear near-ubiquitous blackbirds and starlings, which may leave me confused—at least until after my morning coffee!
Avian acoustics also anchor me to the season and time of day. The honk-wheeze of light-mantled albatrosses accompanies their springtime high-speed formation mating flights over Southern Ocean islands. The trumpeting cackle of black currawongs means that cold weather has forced them down a Tasmanian mountain and I can expect a chilly winter day. Wedge-tailed shearwaters begin their sobbing ghost howls after dusk on northwest Pacific islands. And the southern boobook deep in the eucalypt forest serenades me back to sleep.
Bird calls also alert me to more immediate scenarios. High-pitched alarm calls signal that a predator is nearby (the birds’ behavior will then suggest if the danger is a sky-born raptor or terrestrial interloper). Strident begging calls tell me that fledglings are pestering their parents for food, something to which many hassled human parents can relate.
Essentially, birdsong anchors me into the shared communion of life itself. Their thrilling trilling spilling into the winds creates a frisson of joy through my bones. A symphony of clarion calls inspires me to fully embrace the present moment, in silent wonder and gratitude.
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