by Lin Stone
A beautiful new sport has come winging its way across America. Bird Watching can be a spectator sport of leisure done from your breakfast table -- or a strenuous exercise that takes you far into the out of doors and even around the world.
The only tools you really need are your eyes and your ears. A notebook comes in handy. A simple camera will keep you perking and beckons you in closer. Then there are the people like me who need an expensive camera, good hiking boots, a staff to lean on in moments of weakness and to help me up the mountains, a bedroll, a portable tent, cooking utensils and, well I don't see the end of the list yet.
One way to organize your array of birds is by commonality. If you live in San Diego and have a friend living in New York, what birds do you have that your friend is also likely to see. What are they eating there that they aren't eating here? As you compare notes you will both learn a lot more about the birds you have in common.
The shape of a bird's bill will usually reveal what kind of food that bird will favor. What then of the green-colored crossbill that frequents mountain-tops in Mexico? How does it manage to eat with its mouth all awry? Actually, its mouth is well adapted to its food for it feeds on roots, buds, and pine-cones. Owing to its two mandibles being so strongly made and so curiously arranged the crossbill can cut through branches, roots and pine cones, as if it had a pair of scissors. If it had a pointed beak it could never penetrate any of these.
Bird Watching is America's #1 sport, and there is
one bird everyone wants to see. Here's my story
of the first time I saw him in natural flight.
It was huge,
a strange bird,
lifting from the cold winter mist on my right.
What kind of bird was it?
My eyes strained.
It had the strangest markings for a crane I'd ever seen.
It was white on both ends, and then gray in the middle?
No, by golly it was so brown it was almost BLACK
in the middle!
Then the full grown American Bald Eagle turned slightly
and passed in review only a few feet before my very eyes.
admit unashamed that my mouth dropped open in awe as I watched this symbol of
America with a four foot wing span fly before me. Its strength was serene. Its power was barely
tapped. Its concern for my presence was invisible. Secure in the
knowledge it was protected by the laws of God and man, the eagle hewed straight
for its distant mark and finally passed from my sight.
After a long moment I turned and marked the spot. I was on highway 71 coming from Fort Smith Arkansas towards Texarkana and about 1.5 miles beyond the town of Abbot. There was a large chicken barn to the east from whence the eagle had lifted. I wondered if the eagle had feasted on a chicken carcass that early morn.
I would gladly have chipped in the cost of the chicken to see that symbol of America fly again before my eyes.
The eagle was sacred in America long before the first Euromericans arrived. The eagle was so sacred that just to hold an eagle's feather in one's hand was a privilege. Even today, tribal members sent to die in the hospital will often recover after holding an eagle feather while the medicine man prays.
The first time an eagle's feather was used to bless me
Symbols are powerful.
Yes. The Stars and Stripes represent
but brings to mind the massive military might needed
at the battles front. What is the flag but a scrap of
material with bright colors emblazoned thereon.
Yet, as a symbol, our flag unites the nation.
What is the eagle but
a large bird that even a small pack
of sparrows can drive from their territory?
Yet, as a symbol, the eagle represents freedom
for the individual -- the freedom to soar, to worship,
and to range forever undeterred
where boundaries cease to exist.
Everyone should have the privilege of personally
seeing a full grown American Bald Eagle lift up from
the mists and pass in review right before one's face.
It is a life-lifting experience I shall always remember.
Click HERE for one more eagle picture.
p.s. On a Saturday evening about a month later we were on our way to Sallisaw Oklahoma and there suddenly appeared another full grown bald eagle on our left. "Is that --?" I asked. "It IS!" This one was about 50 feet off the ground. He paused in front of us then drifted slowly off to the east. I got the car stopped and jumped out. My wife is a naturalist. I know she was not as excited to see him as I was because after she jumped out she grabbed my arm and shouted, "I saw him first, you just talk faster." Meanwhile, I was too excited to even think of who had seen him first.
p.p.s. The next morning was Sunday and as usual I had to be at the chapel at 7:00. Lo and behold, as I passed over a hill about two miles from here a grown Spotted Eagle appeared before me and continued to follow the road in front of me for nearly a mile.
Since then I have seen a bald eagle soaring over the town of Mena. I was in the city swimming pool. When I pointed out the eagle soaring in the sky to my wife, others saw my finger pointing and soon everyone there had found the same thrill I had already had...
It was their FIRST eagle!
|Have you ever wondered why two varieties of birds can eat the
same food side by side and come out with feathers dressed in diverse
colors? Even their bills can be different colors. Have
you ever wondered why buzzards soar just as high over a cold
mountain top in Arkansas as they do over a hot desert of volcanic
rock in Arizona?
Have you ever wondered why almost every bird fully decked in black feathers cling to their clan ties while most other birds pair off, male and female? Colonies of buzzards will come chattering to a clump of trees for a brief meeting before the sun rises then soar off into the skies for a lonely sojourn unless news of a special feast was flashed during their morning coffee chat. That evening will find all of them perched once more in a clandestine colony before lofting off in the direction each of them prefers to call home.
Colonies of blackbirds assemble in much the same fashion as will crows and ravens except these lesser cousins prefer to prey in packs during the daylight hours. Scare one and startle them all. Blackbird colonies can number in the thousands if not thinned out by the savage attacks of armed men.
Some birds have very unusual names -- like Goatsuckers - or Nightjars - These have long wings kind of in the shape of boomerangs. Their legs are short and their bills are very shorts. The Goatsuckers name originally came from the mistaken belief that they occasionally suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus).
Some New World species have an a.k.a. of "nighthawks". On the Arizona desert of 65 years ago Indian lads played a game of taking turns throwing sticks or stones at the Goatsuckers. The object of the game was to see how many times we could make the Goatsuckers dive at the missile. Anyone that got 2 of them to dive at the same time at their missile got double points.
Nightjars are found around the world. They are
mostly active in the late evening and early morning or on moonlit
nights as they feed predominantly on moths and other large flying
insects found out at that time of night.
Their soft, ruffly feathers are colored in alternating swatches of gray and dark gray in patterns much larger than are found on the back of a meadowlark. This pattern helps them to be mistaken for bark or dead leaves when they are parked. Goatsuckers usually nest on the ground.
Lin Stone is the author of Magic Land Sales. Browzer Books has published 33 other books by Lin Stone: Short Stuff, Tales From the Light Side and Water, Water. As an editor Lin has organized several more books.
I know you are as anxious to get started as I am to help you on your
So, let's move it.
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