Looking at Birds, Listening to Birds

July 1st started out well and then rapidly went downhill as I got the news about the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona.

By the 2nd, I was so drained from constantly accessing news videos, etc., that I had to get away, and so I went fishing. I wanted to try to different approach to a mountain stream that I fish now and then — it involved some gravel county roads, then two miles in four-wheel-drive down a steep descent into its canyon, followed by a short walk.

As I came out of the dry juniper and oak brush into the lusher creekside vegetation hawk flew low over me — an accipter, probably a sharp-shinned hawk. Its head turned, and it looked at me.

It felt like a welcome, I thought.

“Bullshit,” I told myself, “it’s just cruising the riparian zone looking for lunch. I happened to be here, so it checked me out.”

Maybe the flip side of the New Animism — the focus on relationships between yourself and the other-than-human world — is that you cannot think that these encounters are All About You.

The wild birds are always watching, and they do talk to you. And they talk about you. Several times I have had crows and Steller’s jays tell me something when I was hunting deer or elk — but it is up to me to act correctly on their information. Apparently our relationship is not yet perfectly harmonious. But if they would help me more, they would have something to eat. Isn’t that fair?

What gets under my skin is when someone says something like, “My totem is Hawk,” because I want to know which hawk? There is a boatload of difference between a Cooper’s hawk and a Mississippi kite, for instance. (Oh well, they probably meant red-tailed hawk anyway, the pickup truck of buteos — large, useful, and ubiquitous.)

5 thoughts on “Looking at Birds, Listening to Birds

  1. Medeine Ragana

    This morning I got up early (6:30 as opposed to 8:30; hey I sometimes don’t go to bed until 2AM). Sat out on the back deck with a cup of coffee around 7AM and got a visit from a hummingbird! I was delighted. I’ve been trying to encourage them for a while with a feeder, but the only thing I ended up with is a nest of wasps. 🙁 Gonna try the feeder again but in a different spot I think.

    I chuckled about your comment about bird “totems. People really do not pay attention to their surroundings. They see a bird in the sky and they think, “hawk”! when, in fact, it’s probably a vulture or even a crow. Or they look at a tree but haven’t a clue as to the type of tree or why it’s growing there instead of someplace else.

  2. The birds around here tell me more than almost any other kind of creature. Well, the squirrels are pretty communicative when they’re upset about a cat and want me to get up — NOW — and chase it away. And I have one cardinal who can tell when I get up to make coffee. He sits on the deck and yells, “Yo! Woman! Some seed out here, you think? Now. Now would be nice.” I always envision him in a tank top and cut-offs, combing back his crest. I think the rabbits talk about me, but it’s mostly to say, “She’s gone now. Head for her parsley; every rabbit for itself!”

    1. Medeine Ragana

      LOL! Last year I planted corn. Not just any old corn, but the triplesweet kind that you can’t get even in the farmers’ market. I swear I think the racoons got on the Internet and announced that there was free corn at my house to every racoon in the my county and the adjoining counties! They took a bite out of every single ear! And I planted about 100 plants. I was so mad I could spit. I finally chopped off the part where they ate and canned the rest of the ear.

      1. I have a conversation every year w/ the birds when the figs are starting to get ripe. I say, “OK, there’s enough here for all of us. You guys eat the ones that are too high for me to reach and, if you have to eat the lower ones, eat a whole fig. Don’t just take a bite out of each one.” If I ground carefully before hand and spread some birdseed on the ground as an offering, they generally cooperate.

        1. Medeine Ragana

          Well, I gave up on corn and decided to support my local farmers. Instead I have blueberry bushes but no critters have decided to sample them. So I get them all to my self. (visualize Mr. Burns saying, “Excellent”)

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