Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A day for the birds

It's a day for the birds -- I knew that before I got out of bed this morning. When WQXR came on a little before 6:00 as usual, as soon as the music ended, there was bird song. The morning announcer explained that he bikes from Brooklyn to work, leaving about 4 a.m. and each morning he hears a lot of birdsong -- that pre-dawn chorus that I've heard and, in fact, heard the weekend I was in Cape Cod early this month. One bird is very loud so the guy recorded ten minutes of it's song. What it sings is so various -- including a bit of car alarm -- that he's sure it is a mocking bird. In the next half hour he played other bits of bird song.

In today's NY Times is an editorial by Verlan Klingenborg about birds -- many common birds that people take for granted, like the whipporwill [or bobolink] that I used to hear very often when I was a kid on a farm, are declining rapidly. The Audobon Society says some by as much as 60%. They may still number in millions but many fewer millions. Verlan mentions the carrier pigeon that used to be so numerous it's massed flights blackened the skies. It was entirely brought to extinction by human beings. There are no carrier pigeons today.

Everyone knows about the great concern that arises for the last 50 condors or the last 30 someting else ... but we can't seem to care about destroying habitat or killing species because of pesticide use until the numbers are so small we can then cry, alas! This is terrible. Birds seem especially vulnerable - in a general way most people like birds, yet few people pay attention to them. People wander through parks in cities with iPods playing in their ears. Or they ignore birds, flowers, trees and everything else as they chatter away on their cell phones. As if we do not live in the natural world, as if the natural world is just so much weather to dress appropriately for. Not as if we are all living beings together sharing the weather and the trees and the sun and wind and clouds. If I asked everyone sharing a subway car with me as I go to work, "when did you last listen to birdsong?" most would have a hard time answering. They certainly do not share with that morning broadcaster the wonder of that burst of birdsong that happens pre-dawn.

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