edu180atl: stephen kennedy 8.1.11
Blasts of color, eruptions of wings, unremitting competition! Small or large, no one gives way easily. Everything is at stake. Yellow finches shock the senses. Nuthatches dive down the feeder beak-first. Chickadees, house finches, sparrows swarm the perches like sharks around blood. A mammoth cardinal snatches a sunflower seed, cracks it expertly. The arced metal feeder bar tings. Hummingbirds thrum like wasps. The infrequent redheaded woodpecker appears from nowhere, black and white bars so crisply appointed it’s no wonder the others seem to hang back and watch.
The screen from the breakfast room window has been removed. For purer viewing. Outside: a diminutive ecosystem of wild birds, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, bushes, flowers, flies, mosquitoes, spiders. But feeding and watching the birds – that’s the lesson. Three hummingbird feeders, two regular feeders with black-oil sunflower seed, a birdbath. Through the frame of this window: a universe, a world, a backyard, a classroom, a day, an hour, a minute of viewing. Recent purchase: Nikon binoculars, 10×50. Staggering! Fine grain of feathers, unrepeatable markings of each bird, crack of beaks on seeds, petite feet of colossal cardinals, anxious black eyes.
This birdfeedingviewing is education. I put out seed. Birds arrive, participate, break open shells, eat meat, discard non-meat. They chatter, flap, sing, socialize, jump, watch, disappear. Good for them! At a distance, members of a species are identical. Through the Nikons, wild, gorgeous individuality. The transaction: the more I observe, study, listen, be quiet, the more I learn.
Now, to open the window….
About the Author: Stephen Kennedy is Head of Trinity School, educator of 35 years, father of triplets, wild birdviewer, and an eclectic learner. Follow him on Twitter @StephenGKennedy.