Even before dawn, when the sky is just lightening around four o’clock, a few birds begin turning up. I don’t know which birds they are — from the timbre they might be robins, but this is not daylight robin song. Just a kind of quiet noodling around. Lovely to lie there in the dark listening then drift back down into sleep.
The national winter bird count is coming up soon, in which I will be participating from the comfort of my panoramic bedroom window, with its view of the feeders in my yard. My most common visitors this winter have been goldfinches & chickadees in large numbers, along with quite a few juncos and jays and woodpeckers (downey & hairy); there have also been a pair of starlings hanging around, as well as some nuthatches. I’ve noticed a group of crows down by the river, but they have kept their distance. A couple of days ago I saw a solitary grosbeak, though I’ve seen a group of them up the road when we walk the dogs — we had all kinds of grosbeaks last winter.
This report from CNN on newly discovered species in the Mekong River basin is really quite amazing. I would love to see a Laotian rock rat next spring when I go to the delta, but I have no desire to eat one. The consumption of exotic animals — because they are exotic — was one of my biggest clashes of values with Vietnamese culture when I lived there. That, and a certain disdane for the suffering of all animals, really got to me. And I found it strange, too, in a Buddhist country. Buddhism’s doctrine that the world is defined by suffering has two sides: compassion and indifference. Over the course of their history the Vietnamese have had to sometimes eak out a living off of a parsimonious & capricious nature, which has led them to take a catholic view of what and what is not appropriate for eating. When you’re hungry, that coconut grub might look pretty tasty. I’m not an anthropologist, but it seems to me that there must be some symbolic process through with a food originally eaten for survival becomes a food of particularly high status, especially when times are more lavish.
I had read something previously about this research into the fact that crows can recognize individual humans, but this is a more extended account. A couple of months ago up at the Blue Mountain Center, I wrote three poems about crows — we had a noisy resident group who entertained me through the afternoons, congregating in the Jack Pines near my window. Reminders that we humans share the world with many other intelligences & perceivers.