Compassion is a language. It is the key to true understanding. It takes work to ascertain the truth.
I’m always interested in what guests first say upon exiting their cars when visiting our ranch. A few notables, “Who picks up your trash way out here?” or “Your road is rougher than the back roads of Belize!” Having been to Belize, there is real truth in that comment. Most of the time we are greeted with statements about the beauty, the quiet and the birds. Our family is the Bird Tribe. I say that unabashedly and with a poker face.
They are my people.
When they sing and chatter amongst themselves, I understand in my heart what they are saying. I think they know this. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet landed on my shoulder one day as I walked to our garden shed. We exchanged glances and within an instant I felt such a sweet energy. My feathered friend was sharing his joy. When birds collectively sing, the air is filled with that energy. This morning upon opening my dutch door, the birdsong was inspiring. The oak trees were alive with Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, House Finches, and Dark-eyed Juncos offering their praise to a new day.
My wish for you on this day and everyday is to discover the beauty and love that surrounds us in birds and birdsong. Listen for them as you go into the grocery store, park your car at the library or pick up your kids from school. They are always sharing Love.
Thought I would share the birds that gather around my home with you on these eleven (11) days before Christmas. The perky eyed chap below is hands down my favorite winter visitor. He will appear out of the understory of our salvia bushes to glean juicy insects, or jump up on the fence to stare authoritatively. If another bird dares try to share space with him in this endeavor, he quickly jaunts off. Yes, jaunts. A very deliberate bird is he. With a slight wing flick, he hops quickly, definitively out of the area. But I know what he likes to keep him happy. Mealworms! Mealworms filled twice daily from a chipped clay bowl. Nearby we have a fresh dish of water available too, which he enjoys shortly before and after his mealworm snack. It’s not all about candy canes and cookies at our house:)
Looking back at the videos created for our Facebook page, all but two are of birds singing. Birdsong captivates me. Helps me a lot when trying to spot them in dense tree canopy. There’s more to it though. You see, I eaves-drop on birds.
Lesser-Goldfinches carry on quite the conversations. Chittering and chattering away for up to a half an hour or more different times of the day. Hearing all their varied little voices brings me joy. I imagine it may start something like… “Hey Ernie, that was a close one with the Cooper’s Hawk”! ”Or Beatrice, your feathers are looking a bit drab sweetie!”
Another very close knit talkative group are Cedar Waxwings. In the Fall with a plentiful supply of pyracantha berries, Cedar Waxwings appear and gorge! Afterwards perching within inches of one another will whistle on one or two notes, creating a buzz of song. Almost as if chanting, hmmm, good berries, hmmm good berries, hmmm good berries!
Azure Bluebirds chime in too with soft, sweet whistles, one or two note calls, strident clicking alarm chirps to ward off intruders to berries or territory. The alarm calls sounding much like hitting one or two keys on an old typewriter. You can see there is a lot going on in tree branches above you.
Hands down, Ravens are by far the biggest chatterboxes. Soaring and diving above us cackling chortling, gurgling, squawking, a veritable cacophony of vocal prowess. Listening to Ravens can be an epiphany.
My bird family brings me happiness, joy, love, balance and strength. Their contentedness becomes mine. Just being themselves, doing what they have to do. It helps me get on with what I have to do. Being present, thankful, and grateful for all the blessings and gifts in my life.
Start listening in on you bird neighbors! It may change your life.
May you all have a beautiful, blessed day of giving thanks for all we have been blessed with on this earthly plane and for all we hold dear.
We want you all to know that your contributions for our sacred San Pedro River are cherished.
Heartfelt thanks to all who are helping us build our wildlife center. You are making a big difference in nurturing and conserving a bird’s life.
In Deep Gratitude to All,
As I write this it is snowing outside. I’m visiting my parents at present in upstate New York and the snow is magic. Water liquid or frozen is a gift from heaven. Water in the southwest is precious. Not a commodity to treat lightly, whether its coming out of your tap or enjoying a meandering stream.
The San Pedro River needs our help. She is under assault from forces beyond her control, but not ours. If we share our stories, poems, songs of what she means to us with those charged with preserving, conserving and protecting her, we may prevail. I wrote a letter with my friend Nicole Gillett of the Tucson Audubon Society to ask for all who care about the San Pedro River to submit essays. We can not delay. Time is of the essence.
Dear Supporters of the San Pedro River,
We know you love the San Pedro River. We need your help. We need your voice. Because we know you care, we are asking you to contribute an engaging poem, or essay of your choosing for this mission-critical endeavor. We need your piece by Thanksgiving 2018, the thirtieth anniversary of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area-first conservation area of its kind in our country. We cannot afford to lose this precious national jewel. Eloquently sharing your memories and sentiments will contribute to the fight to save our last free flowing river.
The San Pedro River is under assault. Here is the political situation we are eup against. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a new Draft Resource Management Plan for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA). Their preferred alternative is opening up the area to cattle grazing. BLM is mandated by Public Law 100-696 to protect: “ The Secretary shall manage the conservation area in a manner that conserves, protects, and enhances…the secretary shall only allow such uses…as will further the primary purposes for which the conservation area is established.” (In other words, protection of the natural resources of this riparian area is mandated by established law.)
Public law is not being upheld and the public comment period has passed. The intention of this letter is to rally writers to action and underscore our commitment to protecting the San Pedro River. By creating a small book of your collective voices to share with state and federal policymakers we can be more effective in making our case. In 1995 the book, “Testimony:Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness”, made the difference in preserving Utah’s Red Rock Wilderness.
Remember good work is a stay on despair. As a globally important bird area, the San Pedro River belongs to the world, a ribbon of life in the heart of the Madrean Archipelago ecoregion. We would like this little book to make the difference.
May our collective voices be an exaltation of larks—a cast of hawks—a murmuration of starlings—a congress of ravens—a parliament of owls…
For the River. May we prevail.
May this find you all well and enjoying the changes from Spring to almost Summer! There has been lots going on and much to learn for me...including this blog post:)...all undertakings have been beautiful! Love always what you do and you will never know anything but joy!
As our journey unfolds in the creation of our first raptor enclosure, we wanted you to share a sketch of what it will look like when completed. I can tell you we have had many of the wildings checking out our "flagship" after work each day. To date Bewick's wrens have fledged from within a fence pole not more than 10 ft away. Dusky-capped flycatchers and Azure Bluebirds are incubating clutches in nearby nest boxes. Hooded and Scott's Orioles are calling and building nests in oaks and junipers around the enclosure. I guess the building energy is spreading out to all! Who needs to whistle while you work, we have beautiful birdsong! As I write this newly fledged Say's Phoebes are perched on our front porch table calling to Mom....:)
Here's a sketch of what the enclosure will look like when completed...In the Madrean Sky Islands/Madrean Archipelago monsoon rains and temperature extremes create the need for thoughtful construction. We have been blessed to have such a creative builder/neighbor Brent Klaassen right down the road from the center. It's been joy to create this with his compassionate oversight...
We wish to offer our deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all for the generous donations for our raptor enclosure fund. As our journey continues, we will share our progress with all of you!
Other good news to share with you all, the Great Horned Owl that we helped over the Thanksgiving holiday is doing very well and is on a path at Liberty Wildlife to be the new foster Owl Dad! This parenting role is critical for all the juvenile owlets that are orphaned, injured, or displaced each year, to teach them all they need to know in be-coming a strong adult Owl…to thrive and survive! Liberty’s current foster Owl Dad has been doing this critical job of nurturing and teaching for 16 years! It always makes my heart sing to know that when we reach out to help the winged ones, when we see them injured by the roadside…the difference it makes. The animal lives and their families we ultimately touch and make better. Think of all the owlets now that will benefit in future years from this one small act of kindness, when that state trooper pulled over to rescue him and bring him to us…!
Beautiful, blessed beginnings to all of you in 2018! We wish to share a prayer from Grandmother Flordemayo, one of the founding members of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (www.grandmotherscouncil.org)
Individual animal lives matter. Each one you have the privilege to help opens up your heart a little bit wider...
Great Horned Owl hit by a car, rescued off the speed bumps from the side of the interstate by a very benevolent state trooper on his way home the eve of Thanksgiving. A few phone calls later, I call him to find out he’s on his way home to place the owl in a pet carrier. Imagine that car ride!
After picking up the owl, who is quiet, alert and responsive, clenched right foot, with all other injuries on the right side: eye closed, missing ear tuft feathers, and an exposed patch of skin on his head, all sustained from the collision. We give him time to rest overnight and in the wee small hours of the morning of Thanks-Giving, hand feed a few pieces of cut up mouse “meals” (gratitude to these animals in the web of life!) over the next 36 hours. Through out the day, the eye opens and the morning after we’ve given thanks, he unclenches that right foot! Many many heartfelt thanks to the trooper who cared enough to give him a second chance. We felt so blessed to be a “port in the storm”..
Later that same morning, we transport him to Liberty Wildlife as his injuries needed their expert care and resources. At last report, he is doing well! There will be more to this story…Please check back in with us!
A few days ago I celebrated a Birth-day of special magnitude. Yesterday another birth-day happened that revealed the true meaning of life. Sharing love and lending caring hands to each other and All our Relations that share this beautiful Earth.
My heart is truly overwhelmed with the beauty that was expressed to our organization in support of the work we are intent on accomplishing.
My dearest friend gave me a beautiful blue glass candle with a tea light inside to burn. A beautiful inscription was with the tea light
Every morning with coffee cup in hand, I slowly open my old front porch screen door. In opening it slowly and quietly (my husband is not an early riser), I get a chance to see if anyone else has arrived near our door to offer greetings to the new day. Sometimes, the Madrean Alligator Lizard has coiled up within the door space and I need to make sure my dachshund doesn’t think he’s breakfast or a Black-tailed Rattlesnake, oftentimes is sleeping behind my Virgin Mary statue that graces our rose garden. I always think that must be a sought after place among the wildings to bed down for the night, in Mary’s warm glow…:) The best is when there is a queue for the mealworms that are doled out to the “yardbirds” at least twice daily; Curve-billed Thrasher, Bewick’s Wren, Canyon and Spotted Towhees, Mexican Jay, to name a few…
After getting out the door and down the porch steps, maybe I’ll see a caterpillar inching their way, which invariably I have to ask friends for help in identifying..thank you Bob Behrstock and Karen Lemay of Pollinator Corridors website. Tarantula Hawk may be munching on an orange half on our oriole feeder, a few solitary native bees buzzing along the ground out from under oak leaves, or I discover some brave ants that have joined “hands” to float all night in a pocket of the sugar solution that I gently shake off onto the earth.
Off to greet more “friends”, another day begins…!
All these beings make up our beautiful special world on Earth and all our interconnected with us. We are energized by their language, beauty, and uniqueness. Every day I listen a little more and learn a little more, by understanding them, I come to understand myself and walk with a keener eye for the beauty that surrounds…
Sending rivers of loving intentions to Madrean Mother Wild…
What makes your heart beat faster? Hmmm...? For me, its hearing the shrill cries of the juvenile Cooper's Hawk, while the Red-tailed Hawk screeches overhead.
Yesterday, during a very still moment late afternoon, you know when it's so quiet all you can hear is the flow of blood in your ears? I heard this unusual crashing sound, one that had me running to the back door...!
Behind our vegetable garden, perched haphazardly up in an oak tree was a beautiful, juvenile, light-morph, Red-tailed Hawk, who moments before had just taken a dive on one of our Cooper's... Missed! (Photo credit by Bill Schmoker, 3/07, Colorado)
He let me get so close to him, he was that focused, calling constantly to a family member, who answered faintly from south of his position. He was definitely perturbed! A few moments later off he flew, while the adult Cooper (who had come from out of nowhere) circled above getting his word in edgewise for almost eating one of his offspring! My kind of drama!
Bluebirds symbolize happiness and inspire songs. When I hear their melancholic warble, a Portuguese word comes to mind...saudade:(so dodge ee) meaning a yearning for something that is lost, that you can't reach. Bluebirds know about loss, is that why their song is so haunting?
In 1977, Lawrence Zeleny, Bluebird champion, had an article published in Time,
"Song of Hope for the Bluebirds", spotlighting the crisis these birds were experiencing,
when extremes in weather and manmade intrusions hit them hard. Bluebirds needed nest-boxes and the trails of hope were built. Andre Dion says eloquently in his book, "The Return of the Bluebird", Let the tempest rage:its plaything rebelled; Bluebird would conquer."
Here at home in the Huachuca Mountains, Bluebirds sing and nest-boxes abound. All of us can take inspiration from these beautiful birds. We can get through life's challenges if we come together, work together and value all the beauty that surrounds us.
This is my meditation. My bluebird meditation...Walk upon the Mother, keep your hope, spirit, and courage of convictions beating in your heart. Shine your light, speak your truth.
Saving the best for last, Emily Dickinson's poem: