Archive for the ‘Bird Stories’ Category

“The Story of the Little Bird”: An Irish Folktale

Many years ago there was a very religious and holy man, one of the monks of a convent, and he was one day kneeling at his prayers in the garden of his monastery, when he heard a little bird singing in one of the rose-trees of the garden, and there never was anything that he had heard in the world so sweet as the song of that little bird.

And the holy man rose up from his knees where he was kneeling at his prayers to listen to its song; for he thought he never in all his life heard anything so heavenly.

And the little bird, after singing for some time longer on the rose-tree, flew away to a grove at some distance from the monastery, and the holy man followed it to listen to its singing, for he felt as if he would never be tired of listening to the sweet song it was singing out of its throat.

And the little bird after that went away to another distant tree, and sung there for a while, and then to another tree, and so on in the same manner, but ever farther and farther away from the monastery, and the holy man still following it farther, and farther, and farther still listening delighted to its enchanting song.

But at last he was obliged to give up, as it was growing late in the day, and he returned to the convent; and as he approached it in the evening, the sun was setting in the west with all the most heavenly colours that were ever seen in the world, and when he came into the convent, it was nightfall.

And he was quite surprised at everything he saw, for they were all strange faces about him in the monastery that he had never seen before, and the very place itself, and everything about it, seemed to be strangely altered; and, altogether, it seemed entirely different from what it was when he had left in the morning; and the garden was not like the garden where he had been kneeling at his devotion when he first heard the singing of the little bird.

And while he was wondering at all he saw, one of the monks of the convent came up to him, and the holy man questioned him, “Brother, what is the cause of all these strange changes that have taken place here since the morning?”

And the monk that he spoke to seemed to wonder greatly at his question, and asked him what he meant by the change since morning? for, sure, there was no change; that all was just as before. And then he said, Brother, why do you ask these strange questions, and what is your name? for you wear the habit of our order, though we have never seen you before.”

So upon this the holy man told his name. and said that he had been at mass in the chapel in the morning before he had wandered away from the garden listening to the song of a little bird that was singing among the rose-trees, near where he was kneeling at his prayers.

And the brother, while he was speaking, gazed at him very earnestly, and then told him that there was in the convent a tradition of a brother of his name, who had left it two hundred years before, but that what was become of him was never known.

And while he was speaking, the holy man said, “My hour of death is come; blessed be the name of the Lord for all his mercies to me, through the merits of his only-begotten Son.”

And he kneeled down that very moment, and said, “Brother, take my confession, for my soul is departing.”

And he made his confession, and received his absolution, and was anointed, and before midnight he died.

The little bird, you see, was an angel, one of the cherubim or seraphim; and that was the way the Almighty was pleased in His mercy to take to Himself the soul of that holy man.

Note:  Originally Attributed to T. Crofton Croker who says he wrote it word for word as he heard it from an old woman at a holy well. This version is edited and adapted from Traditional Tales from Long , Long Ago retold by Philip Wilson. It’s also retold by W. B Yeats in his famous book Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).

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“Albatross”

Dore-Albatross-RimeoftheAncientMariner

“At length did cross an albatross,

thorough the fog came;

as if it had been a Christian soul,

we hailed it in God’s name”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

(drawing by Gustav Doré)

“A Hawk with a Fish” by Jane Beal

ahawkwithafish

a hawk with a fish

my parents tell my Omi –

just like a picture

jb

Walnut Creek, CA

Charlotte Smith, “A Natural History of Birds” (1807)

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A Natural History of Birds

by Charlotte Smith

(1807)

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Birds Can Smell

gabriellenevittFor a long time, scientists believed that birds could not smell. However, Dr. Gabrielle Nevitt conclusively proves otherwise in her research.

My specialty is olfaction – the sense of smell – and much of my research has focused on exploring how marine birds and fishes use smell in the natural environment. I have worked in areas ranging from olfactory homing in salmon, to olfactory foraging, navigation and individual recognition in birds, and in particular, petrels and albatrosses … 2016_lsh_nevittWhile most of my work has focused on the procellariiforms, I am broadly interested in the sense of smell in birds. Birds use chemical cues for a variety of behaviors, but olfaction and taste are largely ignored in behaviors from foraging to communication and sexual selection. nevittgabrielle179We were among the first groups to show odor-mediated individual recognition in birds. Long-lived Antarctic prions recognize the odor of their mates (Bonadonna and Nevitt 2004, Science) and leach’s storm-petrel chicks can recognize the individual odor signature of their nest (O’Dwyer et al. 2008). In collaboration with Henri Weimerskirch of CNRS / France, we were the first to apply high-resolution tracking to investigate the sensory basis for foraging in albatrosses. Our work shows that wandering albatross hunt by smell and can detect prey from kilometers away. (Nevitt et al. 2008, PNAS, Cover story).


BIRDS CAN SMELL
by Nancy Averett

Yet changing long-held beliefs takes time, and the scientific community is no exception. Dozens of Nevitt’s grant proposals have been rejected because of the birds-can’t-smell fallacy. A program officer once called to say her application was the worst he’d ever seen. “Your idea that birds can smell is ridiculous,”he said. “This will never be funded, so stop wasting your time.” She ignored him, and her perseverance and inventive methods have inspired others who share her fascination … Nevitt, Hagelin, and other avian olfaction trailblazers have pushed past criticism, failure, and even bodily injury in their quest to disprove one of biology’s most pervasive myths. “In science,” says Nevitt, “we rediscover the obvious sometimes.”

For more, see:

http://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2014/birds-can-smell-and-one-scientist

“The Goldfinch” by C. Fabritius (1654)

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1) “some scholars believe that Fabritius was the link between Rembrandt and Vermeer, whom he may have taught (although there is no hard evidence for this).”

2) “it [the painting] recently inspired Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name. Her bestselling, 800-page Bildungsroman, published in 2013, is narrated by a character who, as a 13-year-old boy, walks off with the painting in the chaos following a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it is part of a temporary exhibition of Dutch masterpieces. Because of Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Fabritius’s Goldfinch is now more famous than ever.”

3) “the bird is chained – a detail which meant that, in other Dutch paintings, they could be symbols of captive love.”

4) “sometimes in art history the goldfinch, like the pelican, had Christian “overtones,” thanks to the flash of red on its face, which was understood as a reference to Christ’s blood.

For additional insights, see BBC Culture article
by Daily Telegraph author Alastair Sooke

On the Ostrich Egg

WingedWonders“The ostrich egg itself, being the largest known to humans, became a symbol of the creation, for many belief systems have the Primal Egg as the source of all things created. So also by association it became a symbol of fertility and of the hidden nature of life before it becomes visible at birth. Philo made a direct relation between this idea and the roasted egg eaten by Jews as part of the Passover meal, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and their rebirth as a nation. It was also the rebirth of the year at springtime.

The Easter egg is a continuation of this, symbolizing the burial and resurrection of Jesus, a new birth and new creation. From the Middle Ages, church inventories mentioned placing an ostrich egg on the altar at Easter and other holy days. Today in Coptic churches this is still the practice. In the Spanish city of Burgos, in the cathedral, an ostrich egg is placed at the feet of the crucified Christ.”

Peter Watkins and Jonathan Stockland
Winged Wonders: A Celebration of Birds in Human History (p. 90)