The image, plus the title says it all......
I am so thankful that Forsythe is open.... yes, a lot of people around but I am happy to see young families and kids enjoying the 'outside world'... yes, it might get in the way of birding, but ....creating future birders, more people interested in the environment should be a goal that all of us 'veteran birders' have.
But....I had an 'ouch' the other day. Prickly Cactus is Native to New Jersey and is found at Forsythe, just off the path behind the weather station near the Visitors Center. Lots of Prickly Cactus.
I bent over to take this image and after I did so, the phone dropped in the grass. Not on the cactus but, in the grass. I didn't think anything of it but just picked up my phone and also a very pointed needles with it. I am used to Prickly Cactus as I have some in my yard in Arizona but I usually am careful around it down there. For some odd-reason, subconsciously I must have had the impression that the Jersey variety wasn't as toxic as the SW variety. I can admit when I am wrong, I am not trump.
The common name is "Devils Tongue'...fairly accurate. And the fruit/ flesh of this cactus is edible but you really have to be careful. Can you imagine getting one of those fine needles on your tongue?
When my daughters were young, I can remember we were in a restaurant in Portland, Oregon where they had these cactus in tiny little planters spread around each table. My oldest was curious and wanted to see what they felt like so she touched it. I think she learned a lesson.
Well, so have I....the Prickly Cactus here in Jersey are just as prickly as those in the SW. Trust me.....
''The wind was so cold and dry it gave you goose-pimples' ....Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.
Today was one of those days.....windy, cold....bit at me; it did. But I persevered and completed my 5 mile walk. As I walked, yes....my head might have been more to the ground than normal but I did break my eye's from the earth, well...every once in a while.
At one time I came upon a mockingbird. Now usually this mockingbird likes to hang out a few roofs down but today I noticed it bunched in a tree. As I approached I must have startled the bird for 'off it went'. Not to my surprise though.
As it 'went'.....I took note that it flew off 'down that way', and then edged in a bit, then edged in to the left a bit more and finally made flight for a bush where it lost itself from my eyes. But this startling, which caused flight, made me ponder some as I recalled at a later hour the reason for it's flight 'path'.
Now I have discussed this before in a prior blog as I sat in a car at Shop-rite and sketched out the flight patterns of several birds. Yet here I am once more pondering the same reasoning behind a somewhat incoherent flight pattern only at this time I believe I have at last; 'figured it out'.....
Birds in flight, that is. I looked this up and found some Scientific Analysis which included the calculations of Salt and Zeuthen (1960) and equations such as this:
D = Cd * S * 0.5 * ρ * V2 (Go ahead, figure it out math brains).....But vocabulary such as aerodynamic drag, newton-meters, chemical energy, air density, co-efficient of drag, and on and on. Frankly, I couldn't figure it out written out in some scientific terms. Okay, I give you some proof. Observe the following chart:
So let's skip the intensity of science here for a minute and see my grasp of the situation. You see... it all has to do with energy. The more a bird flies, the more energy and calories it consumes. Pretty simple.
Given that, and given the windy day.....the mockingbird unknowingly performed all of that science in their bird brain. No calculator needed, not tech...no computers and not even a pencil and paper. Just good old fashioned bird-sense.
And what might this look like from a human's perspective. Well, check it out below as I mapped out the issue.
It is all about ENERGY and conserving energy. A bird knows naturally how to conserve energy and I think this drawing above shows exactly this. The Mockingbird had it's initial contact with me at the * in the above map. From that point, follow the #1 flight pattern. The ending area was the bush on the left. Notice the way the prevailing wind was coming. If the mockingbird would have taken flight pattern #2 which is the shortest route from * to Bush, it would have flown directly against the wind, thus using a ton of energy.
But the bird instead took flight pattern #1 which at first looked to me to be haphazard but in reality it was very well 'thought out'.... Perhaps not 'thought out' but just instinct. The Mockingbird, by instinct knew to fly 'cross-wind' as if surfing the wind and taking a ride over much of the real-estate. No or little calories used in the first leg as it flew cross wind. Then it edged to the left a bit to the bush, but not much. The mockingbird actually flew beyond the bush, and then....turned to intersect the movement of the wind. Again, an easy surf.
Think of swimming against the tide in the ocean. By swimming into the current you will simply use energy and get little results. But if you swim cross current, you will eventually make it to the shore. Much like swimming the mockingbird did much the same. Cross wind....cross wind....cross wind..... and finally the bush. The energy expelled to move from * to Bush was little compared to flight pattern #2. The bird knew. The bird saved calories. The bird took all of that 'math' and figured it out way prior to any of us who did that complicated equation. It is all about Energy usage.
What do you think....did I figure it out?
Do this....... Every time you go outside, observe a bit of nature. Whether it is a blade of grass blowing in the wind or a butterfly or ant or a tree. The point is, look at it and ponder it. Why do the clouds move the way they do? Why is it that the weed grows here? Why is it that the rain falls in a particular pattern when first raining ...etc etc. Challenge yourself and pull your head out of computers or the phone. Let your brain wander to that which is natural.
My sister-in-law picked up this two volume set of 'Book of Birds' from a Michigan library near her home and mailed them to me. The image above is the 1939 edition of Book of Birds by the National Geographic Society. The volume set was first printed in 1932, two years prior to Tory Peterson's book in 1934 and even then, Peterson's only covered the Eastern states.
Other books covered the New England States or Birds of California etc....So the National Geographic Society decided there was a need for a book that encompassed the entire United States so they printed this one. And the price was nominal because the cost of the prints, images etc...were assumed by the Society for many previous years so that cost was not built into the price for this two volume set.
It would be a birders dream to be transplanted back in time and land in South Jersey in 1930. Admittedly travel would be a royal pain but what you would see might astound you in 'numbers'. Although in the 30's the Audubon Society existed and membership (who promised to 'not molest birds') was strong, the commercialization and hype around 'birding' was not as intense as we have now. No 'Big Years to tout' or Christmas Counts' or maps and trails and guides, nor camera's that captures birds at 15 fps, or scopes nor binoculars. no eBird. These days were purely left up the the self-proclaimed naturalists without 'certification' or a degree. These days didn't have the ABA floating around or the politics as we see it now.
So to encounter such a treasure as this two volume set.....well, need I say more? While I am not back in time, I am.....I am reading about birding and knowledge of based upon 1932. I see prints made in the 20's and images in grainy BW. Ooo la la.....to say the least.
I have many pages to go but as I perused the book today, multiple feathered friends visited my house. One of them being the goldfinch so I decided to see what did the 1930's offer me in regards to the goldfinch?
In 1930 the Goldfinches species numbered 5, not three as we have today. Back east was the 'eastern Goldfinch'...as we have today although today we just label it as the American Goldfinch. In the 30's we have the Lawrence Goldfinch in the SW states, just as we have today. But back in the 30's we had the Pale Goldfinch in the Rockies, the Greenbacked Goldfinch in the California area and the more abundant Willow Goldfinch back west. For some reason, all of those three have been either combined to make either the Lesser Goldfinch or blend to form todays 'Eastern Goldfinch'....
I am sure the combining of Goldfinches was due to DNA, as much is today but 'yesterday' they were split up mainly due to appearance. What happened to the Pale Goldfinch? Did both the Willow and Green-backed now become the Lesser? ....not sure I am. But a curious question.
Another thing that came to mind as I skimmed thru the volumes and perhaps this is better know to others that myself. But the Peregrine Falcon was at one time called the Duck Hawk. That is a new one on me.
more to come....
Tough Times now......I was reading in The Atlantic Press that mental issues are arising due to many people who cannot handle 'not being around others and situations, stores, etc' ....I feel sorry for them. It is times like these where we need to pull together as a society and not fragment into two. Sadly, I feel we are again, even in a medical situation, starting to fragment into two camps.
Anyhow....to guide you thru some tough times, read this on Stoicism, which is something I have unknowingly been practicing for most of my life. It involves three disciplines (a) Perception, (b) Action, (c) Will. A small except is below of the meaning of Stoicism:
The goal of life is to live consistently in harmony and agreement with the Nature of the universe, and to excel with regard to our own essential nature as rational and social beings.
Stoicism was founded in Athen's, Greece....years ago prior to Plato I believe. Take the time to understand what this is, and if needed....attempt to do so.
Who is this man? ....born 1885 in the United Kingdom and died in 1930 in France. Strangely he lies rested now in Taos, New Mexico. Taos is one of those places where it sounds actually a bit better than reality. Perhaps it is just me. But how did he end up in Taos? Actually, he had a ranch there and David Herbert Lawrence was a writer and poet. It seems that many creative people end up in New Mexico near Sante Fe or Taos.
I for one.....have been to Taos. I was traveling from Sante Fe to Taos and took the back route. The back route means to take the 76 cutoff that passes by Chimaho, Truchas (Trout), Trampas, and Penasco. I am sure you have heard of them. Anyhow, there is a great little pizza place in Truchas.
Someplace near the end of that adventure the road turned to gravel as they were repaving. Now, no one can go too fast on a downhill road on gravel. It just isn't possible with windy roads etc. And if you say 'night', that adds a new dimension. But it so happens that as I was traveling down that route some deputy who was at the tail end of his shift stated that I was going 80 MPH down this gravel road. Come on now....80 mph? I barely do that on the turnpike here let alone on this back road. So I had the option of having an automatic $350 fine, or going to jail and seeing the judge in the morning. I decided to take the fine and attempt to fight it, but I was real tempted to go to jail, just for the experience. In hindsight, I should have. So, when someone mentions to me Taos...I naturally state that it is one ****hole.
But that brings me back to D. H. Lawrence. This guy was a poet and a writer and was really into human nature, society etc. A pretty awesome individual in my thinking and a man before his time. Much like Thoreau, Walden, Donne, and Whitman...they were before their time. Lawrence at one time quoted:
“Different places have different vital effluence, different vitality, different chemical enhalation, different polarity with different stars; call it what you like. But the spirit of place is a great reality.”
How does that ring? .....To me it shows that each place we literally stand in this world is going to have a different vibe....a different feel.... Our senses will react differently and, as always...each to each. We venture in our travels and see an abundance of wildlife and scenic wonders. We venture to worlds unknown and yet as we do so, we experience within us, a connection to nature that captures our individual spirit. If I stand next to this tree outside of Taos for example, my intimacy to my surroundings as a human being will be different from yours. Same spot, same tree....same view. But the connection I build or have built within on some forbidden examination of life, differs from yours. That shows that our spirit and relationship with our surroundings', that connection to an aberration (as nothing than becomes normal) makes us who we are. When I stand by that tree that Lawrence stood by,....how I view that tree, the ground, rocks, wildlife, sky.....everything; well, that might be a complete polarization of what he felt. Interesting eh?
Now, try this one by Lawrence:
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
How does that read? What takes hold of you and directs your mind in some dark area, way back.....? A bird drops....fallen, frozen and now lifeless. And yet the bird feels nothing as it slowly passes away and becomes food for insects, ...and other beasts. No thought at all. No remorse for a life led, no feeling of a life less lived than the bird that might have survived. Just a death, plain and simple. No less than a trick that mother natures plays. Ha ha....you are gone, while 'you' live. Oh so; what of it?
Now, back to you as a human. What tricks have 'we' played upon ourselves as 'we' supposedly advance into a "CIVILIZATION"...? If Lawrence would be from his grave, and speaking to you in person....what might he say? How has our civilization effectively dehumanized us? We have become industrial in nature and strive for modernity, whatever that technology might be given any one era. And yet, have we lost the very nature of being a living thing?
The bird....prior to being frozen and dropping so nonchalantly to death, kept its secrets to life, from one generation to another. Migration.....nesting.... flying... essentially just living. And we as humans? We might have lost the essential of life a long time ago and now rely upon modernization and industrialization of any degree to keep us alive.
While the bird freezes and drops dead, we prolong our lives and do so with utter fakery and illusion. The majority of our population have forgotten what it is like to smell 'roses' or find shapes in clouds or to nourish ourselves from what we find along the trail. We exist now solely due to modernization and industrialization. We live long long lives and prolong our lives with the same modernization and industrialization. We don't just keep our secrets to living within or pass along to our off-spring. We don't just live life, but for many....we have our lives led. We rely upon our phones and computers and technology and fake shelter and fake food and medication and and and and...... Instead of like that 'bird. For that one bird who lived what, perhaps 4-5 years at most, had a far richer existence and peace with nature that most of have thru our entire lives. That one bird who drops frozen from the branches without having felt sorry or without thought, has lived an existence multiple times greater than we live.
So....the next time you walk in a casual way no doubt, and come across the remains of 'that bird'....and wonder too yourself about its existence, remember now..... it truly had a life. It's life, as recalled by Lawrence was direct and purposeful and akin to nature itself. What now, can you do within your life that will represent the same?
I can't help it..... My mind wanders at night at such, and yes...at such times I connect to birds. Two birds above...two ducks.... One being the Black Duck while the other being the Northern Pintail.
Now you see, you see.....both ducks are readily available for viewing at Forsythe or other 'watery areas' if desire 'finds' you. Seek out I say and you shall find. Or maybe, rather than 'find' , let shift just for a moment to 'fine'.....
One small letter...a difference of D to an E, will shake things up just a bit. The word 'find' is when I look for a particular object and I actually see it, as opposed to the word 'fine' where I think what I am viewing is from the bottom of my heart, you look impressive.......simply marvelous darling or, 'you are fine'.
Given the two and only those two (as the Gadwall comes to mind to in replace of the black duck).... let's just concentrate on those two. Which of the two do you just 'find' and which one is actually very 'fine'? Of the two ducks, whom might be the 'finest' of them all?
Most likely a mere observation will suffice. By chance, did you select the same as I ? Did you say to yourself, and perhaps muttering a bit so as not to cast less doubt amongst the confidence level of 'black ducks' that they are 'just a find' ...or something that is almost everyday in appearance and lacks, well...'fineness' shall we say? And by chance did you select in your mind that the Northern Pintail is, really fine? Fine...marvelous....impressive?
Personally when I am out scoping waterbirds and come across the very elegant Northern Pintail, I must admit, that to a degree....I am taken back just a bit by the utter 'fineness' of the Pintail. The silhouette does justice, eh? The long tail coming to a point....the sleek lines, the almost stand-off-ish looks, the separation of colors that do so contrast. Pure fineness. Class, upper breed....you come away with the feeling that you just met a bit of royalty on the water.
So to continue....and to shift from ducks to humans and yet, let's try to keep the same 'find' and 'fine' thing going on here. Look below....
Eleanor and Leo..... Who is the Black Duck and who is the 'fine' Northern Pintail? Sadly as life plays with us, there are some people in history that are just not going to get much of a break. Yes I know, this is a bit cruel and from an historical perspective, she was a 'first lady before her time'. But as mentioned at first, my mind wanders a bit at night and as such, I think of birds. Earlier as it may have been, I was reminded of both Eleanor and Leo as I flipped channels, being self-quarantined of course. Now, and as such,...the connection between bird and human came about.
Well now....We find ourselves home-bound...as we self-quarantine. That is okay my friends, for it is best to live a healthy and yet safe life. But here I write at 11pm concerning a past adventure, be it years ago. Somewhere between 1995 and 1998, so we are going back into the latter stages of our last century. A funny thing in life as I stumbled upon an Illicit Affair.
My early days of digi-scoping was in full bloom. My scope was a highly engineered Bushnell Scope with a retail value of $89. Yes indeed, engineered to perfection with solid glass. I couldn't even tell you what my camera was but it was an 'early digital'... the scope and camera fit like two awkward teens on a first date.
Remind you, that digiscoping didn't come about as a 'formal thing to do' until 1999 when 'someone' coined the term. But I, was ahead of the curve being a few years prior. After-all, I was a birder and having a scope, I can remember my creativity was just flowing. Could the camera and scope 'go together?" Yes, an illicit affair for those times. Not overly risqué, as I played by the rules of the time, but certainly creative.
So my love affair....my illicit chance to play with life began. Like many things that one might do 'once or twice' or have as skeletons locked deep within their closets, I had little struggles with this. No moral grounds to contend with, no ethical issues, nor was I bound by marriage at that time to any person, so my affair was not so much illicit as it might be called, just daring.... Creative, wild, rash, on the spunky side....boldly audacious if not more.
So I set off one day to Bennington Lake, in southeast WA state. The shoreline of the lake would take me a few hours to circuit, all the while carrying my Bushnell, camera and some wobbly tri-pod. Often enough I would stop and kneel...listen, hoping for my eyes to perch upon a bird. And yes, I found them. Maybe a robin? ...a duck ..all immaterial now. But the time came to put those two awkward teens together and see what came from that 'first date', and as I recall, little fruit bearing images appeared. A bit dark, ..fuzzy... not much to view.
As I walked back to the car, I can recall seeing other people around the lake. No one in particular, just people straying here and there. Sprinkled amongst the grass and perhaps one or two fishing. Again, no real recollection.
Arriving back at my car after a disappointing first date, my illicit affair was little to brag at when I returned to my usual watering hole for a drink with the guys. And odd as it might be, that illicit affair with scope and camera did turn into an illicit affair, of sorts that is.
You see, if you can....... that there I was sitting in my car when a man around 30 or so approached me. He was wearing flannel, as after all, this is the Pacific Northwest. "Hey, you taking pictures of us? Are you some private investigator? We weren't doing nothing, just talking. You taking pics of us? '....
Well as you can imagine, there I was.... a bit lost as to a 'comeback'. I must have mumbled out something such as 'what you say?" or mildly to that effect.
'We aren't doing nothing man, just friends....'
Dawn became to come to light, .....oh, I began to see now. Here I was with my scope and camera and here was 'this guy' ...right here, with 'that woman' ...over there. Ah....an illicit affair. Ah....right.
Well what could I say? ...this guy wasn't taking 'no' for an answer. At the time I was working as a Ranger for the National Park Service and had my badge and uniform in the car with me, so I showed it to him and merely said I was on an official wildlife count. or again, something to that effect, to borrow that phrase once more.
That quieted him down and he left....went back to the grass I suppose with 'that woman' ...her, over there. All told, I ended up with an illicit affair, while I started with one as well. True story, cross my heart.