Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Of Birds and Bees

These are uninspiring times if you go by the sociopolitical situation in this country. I am not saying this is a time for inaction,  just that we live in uninspiring times. So I’ve stayed away from writing except when required, but this weekend was very different. The Bird Festival was in town and it was a privilege to spend some time with winged creatures who soar to much greater heights than many of our so-called leaders. My daughter and I attended a workshop on birding by ear, which on the face of it appears pointless to a person who has hearing issues, but that didn’t stop me. It was a fantastic workshop as it gave me some insights into the language and music of birds. As we went into the field to practice our newly acquired skills we were blessed with a sight of a Great Horned Owl mother sitting diligently on her clutch. The dad was nowhere to be seen, but she knew she could count on him to bring in the bacon so to speak at dusk.
The Great Horned Mom and her Nest - didn't have a good camera and wanted to give her privacy. So stayed at a distance
As we kept watching her, we wondered why does this image bring so much joy into our hearts? My daughter simply had two words “love” and “cute”. I couldn’t find any words. Then, that evening the Paris Review delivered this article into my inbox - on Sentinel Species. The article just spoke to me and put in words some of my own feelings. I cannot claim that my experience with birds is anywhere close to that of the writer. I didn’t get into this until a few years back, but I can see my daughter saying something like this in the future, if she keeps up her passion. 

Sunday night we decided to catch a glimpse of the Oscars. To be honest, I now use the Oscars just to help identify movies for my Netflix queue. But in the short time we caught the Oscars we saw the clip for “Piper” and once again the Universe seemed to have decided to remind us about birds this past week! Since Sunday we’ve watched Piper half a dozen times on youtube and I know we will watch more. Although we love Sandpipers, they were just little gray jobbers for us before, and were not one of our favorite shore birds. Piper seems determined to change that. Give it a try if you haven't watched it already.

I did say birds and bees in the title of the post, so before I wrap up, I had to mention the story I heard on NPR about bees. The scientist interviewed said “Bees, for example, can count. They can make decisions by weighing uncertainty, and can even learn to pull a string in order to reveal a hidden cache of sugar water”. But the phrase that caught my attention was “behaviorally flexible”.

In times like these, where we all want to just double down on our opinions and desperately hold onto our ideologies, the bees are showing us the rewards of being flexible and creative in solving problems.  With every passing day fascinating things are being discovered about species that were considered by humans to be lower on the pecking order, creatures that were thought to be driven only by instinct. This is a humbling experience and it reinforces that humans are just one other species on this planet and there is so much to learn from other species, not just for biomimicry, but also as an inspiration for how to live.