Archive for the ‘Bird Stories’ Category

The Falcon Thief by Joshua Hammer

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The Falcon Thief

In honor of black birders everywhere

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/06/05/people-called-police-this-black-birdwatcher-so-many-times-that-he-posted-custom-signs-explain-his-hobby/

Christopher Cokinos, _Hope is a Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds_ (2000)

On Sunday morning, I walked through the Claremont Farmers’ Market, where, at a book stall manned by volunteers, I found Christopher Cokinos’ book, Hope is a Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds (2000).

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The book is part natural history, part travel narrative, and part elegy for recently extinct avian species, including the Carolina Parakeet, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Heath Hen, Passenger Pigeon, Labrador Duck, and Great Auk.

The title comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

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I find the book inspiring in the attention that it brings to the loss of birds from their native habitats due to human exploitation and in the strange but wondrous idea that we might be able to revive currently extinct avian species someday using the science of de-extinction (also called resurrection biology) and cloning.

From _The Feather Thief_ by Kirk Wallace Johnson

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“The Bird Phoenix” by Hans Christian Andersen (trans. Jean Hersholt)

Beneath the tree of knowledge in the garden of paradise stood a rosebush. And here, in the first rose, a bird was born. His plumage was beautiful, his song glorious, and his flight was like the flashing of light. But when Eve plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and she and Adam were driven from paradise, a spark fell from the flaming sword of the angel into the nest of the bird and set it afire. The bird perished in the flames, but from the red egg in the nest there flew a new bird, the only one of its kind, the one solitary phoenix bird. The legend tells us how he lives in Arabia and how every century he burns himself to death in his nest, but each time a new phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out from the red egg.

The Phoenix in Eden

“Firebird in Gan Eden” by Alyse Radenovic

The bird darts about as swift as light, beautiful in color, glorious in song. When a mother sits beside her infant’s cradle, he settles on the pillow and forms a glory with his wings about the head of the child. He flies through the room of contentment and brings sunshine into it, and he makes the violets on the humble cupboard smell sweet.

But the phoenix is not a bird of Arabia alone. In the glimmer of the northern lights he flies over the plains of Lapland and hops amid the yellow flowers in the short Greenland summer. Deep beneath the copper mountains of Falun, and in England’s coal mines, he flies in the form of a powdered moth over the hymnbook resting in the hands of the pious miner. He floats down the sacred waters of the Ganges on a lotus leaf, and the eye of the Hindu maid brightens when she beholds him.

Phoenix bird! Don’t you know him? The bird of paradise, the holy swan of song? He sat on the car of Thespis, like a chattering raven, flapping his black gutter-stained wings; the swan’s red, sounding beak swept over the singing harp of Iceland; he sat on Shakespeare’s shoulder, disguised as Odin’s raven, and whispered, “Immortality!” into his ear; and at the minstrels’ feast he fluttered through the halls of the Wartburg.

Phoenix bird! Don’t you know him? He sang the Marseillaise to you, and you kissed the feather that fell from his wing; he came in the glory of paradise, and perhaps you turned away from him toward the sparrow that sat with gold tinsel on its wings.

The bird of paradise-renewed each century-born in flame, dying in flame! Your portrait in a frame of gold hangs in the halls of the rich, but you yourself often fly around lonely and misunderstood – a myth only: “The phoenix bird of Arabia.”

When you were born in the garden of paradise, in its first rose, beneath the tree of knowledge, our Lord kissed you and gave you your true name – Poetry!

Michael Warren’s Interview on his book _Birds in Medieval English Poetry_

The Compleat Birder

Bit of a cheat post this one, but Boydell and Brewer have recently published an interview they conducted with me on my book, Birds in Medieval English Poetry, so thought I’d share it. Click here, or simply read the text below.

Thank you for assisting our discussion of your book, Dr Warren. To begin, could you tell us a little about how you came to write this book, which is now the second in our new series Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages. What first drew you to the natural world in literature? 
When I decided to return to medieval studies after some years in teaching, it was an obvious choice for me to pursue a subject that combined a personal love of mine with literature. I knew that there was plenty to say about birds, in fact, because I’d written on this subject for my…

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Calliope Hummingbird

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Calliope Hummingbirds breed in the willow thickets of coniferous woodlands in the San Gabriel Mountains between May and August, but at least one came down to the foothills near Amber Ridge this morning:  a female with a vividly spotted throat and a distinctive Calliope chitter — compared to Cornell’s Online Birding Lab recordings — sounds like no other SoCal hummer!

(Did you know that Calliope is the muse of eloquence and epic poetry?)

My Christmas Book: Noah Strycker’s _Birding Without Borders_

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My Christmas Movie: “The Big Year”

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Did a bone vulture kill the Greek playwright Aeschylus?

As myth has it, a bone vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) did kill Aeschylus, the Ancient Greek playwright who wrote the trilogy called the Oresteia, the tragedy of Agamemnon and his family. The vulture did so by dropping a bone on his head, a bone which the bird intended to shatter so that it would be able to eat smaller pieces of it. For bone vultures, also known as lammergeiers, eat bones.

They also “paint” their white feathers red or orange, using reddish soil, but they do so secretly. The behavior appears to be instinctual and is used to assert status among the vultures, who are cousins to the much smaller Egyptian Vulture. To learn more about bone vultures, read on.

  • Thanks to ULV English major, graduating senior, and future librarian, Meredith Jones, for bringing the bone vulture to my attention!