I’m not a big birder. “Ornithology,” the study of birds, takes a lot of dedication, time and education. And there are some species where even the experts will hedge. Those who are able to identify birds and understand their habitats deserve great admiration. Probably no one can name them all. I consider myself a bird notice-er.
It wasn’t really too long ago, I confess, that I generalized that all big birds that floated on water were simply ducks. But once you start to notice bird behaviors – like how one duck is diving under water and staying there a while and another is putting its head underwater and thrusting its rump skyward to balance itself, it becomes obvious they aren’t the same kind of bird.
The fact that some of these ducks are divers and some are dabblers became the first tag of distinction I noticed. My encounters with the birds has helped me realize that being a “notice-er” can make an immense difference in how one experiences life. It draws you closer and makes you more appreciative of the particularity of the creatures, beings or elements with which you are in physical proximity.
Peterson’s Field Guide for Western Birds says “Collectively, the three common, streaked, sparrow-sized sandpipers resident in North America are nicknamed ‘peeps.’ The British call their similar ones “stints.” They look so identical. But eventually I started to notice the difference in the color of their legs. They run and fly pretty fast so you have to identify them quickly or hope they will soon be content to perch on shoreline rocks.
The ancients chose bird images among the personas they gave to the Goddess. For instance, most birds take flight and seem to be free and unencumbered by the rules of others. Then, too, the mother bird was known to warmly care for the chicks and do anything, including offer up its own body, for their welfare. These metaphors continued even into Judeo-Christian imagery where God was thought of as a mother eagle (dynamic empowerment) and a mother hen (intimate cuddling). Also, Christ was depicted as a female pelican in art and literature.
Once we start to “take notice” we enter into new understandings and interdependent relationships. The birds remind us that the Eternal Mother God offers us an unconditional love that will shelter us. Therefore we need not fear to notice ourselves or others! Count me, Mother God, among your peeps!
FYI – both the Buffleheads and Lesser Sandpipers are migratory birds and are presently in our area. Before spring arrives they will head back to northern Canada and Alaska, so be sure to get out there now and be an alert notice-er.