Archive for the ‘Birding-by-Ear’ Category

Haiku for a Hummingbird


orange flowers bloom

behind the pillar pine tree

for a hummingbird


Vacaville, CA


“The Dipper” by Mary Oliver


Once I saw
in a quick-falling, white-veined stream,
among the leafed islands of the wet rocks,
a small bird, and knew it

from the pages of a book; it was
the dipper, and dipping he was,
as well as, sometimes, on a rock-peak, starting up
the clear, strong pipe of his voice; at this,

there being no words to transcribe, I had to
bend forward, as it were,
into his frame of mind, catching
everything I could in the tone,

cadence, sweetness, and briskness
of his affirmative report.
Though not by words, it was
a more than satisfactory way to the

bridge of understanding. This happened
in Colorado
more than half a century ago—
more, certainly, than half my lifetime ago—

and, just as certainly, he has been sleeping for decades
in the leaves beside the stream,
his crumble of white bones, his curl of flesh
comfortable even so.

And still I hear him—
and whenever I open the ponderous book of riddles
he sits with his black feet hooked to the page,
his eyes cheerful, still burning with water-love—

and thus the world is full of leaves and feathers,
and comfort, and instruction. I do not even remember
your name, great river,
but since that hour I have lived

in the joy of the body as full and clear
as falling water; the pleasures of the mind
like a dark bird dipping in and out, tasting and singing.

Mary Oliver

Note: On Thursday, July 6th, I gave a poetry reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery in downtown Davis. Afterwards, I was pleased to sit down and talk with Steve, a poet and a bird-watcher like myself. He mentioned this poem, “The Dipper,” by Mary Oliver in our conversation. Mary Oliver first saw the bird in Colorado, where Steve had also seen it. Though I have lived in Colorado, I have not yet seen the American Dipper in situ, bobbing and fishing in nature’s favorite stream. However, I have had a preview! The little bird is simply delightful.

p.s. John Muir loved the bird, which he called a water-thrush. He wrote of it: “THE waterfalls of the Sierra are frequented by only one bird, —the Ouzel or Water Thrush ( Cinclus Mexicanus). He is a singularly joyous and lovable little fellow, about the size of a robin, clad in a plain waterproof suit of bluish gray, with a tinge of chocolate on the head and shoulders. In form he is about as smoothly plump and compact as a pebble that has been whirled in a pot-hole, the flowing contour of his body being interrupted only by his strong feet and bill, the crisp wing-tips, and the up-slanted wren-like tail.”

“A Distressed Duck” by Jane Beal

She was a beautiful mallard –
brown and white with a patch of dark blue
side-feathers, orange feet, and an orange beak.

She was hungry, and she was hunting,
her beak dipping into the grass,
but coming up empty.

She began to cry in distress,
making an awful sound,
and I wanted to help her.

I wished I had bread in my bag,
but I didn’t, so I tried to soothe her
with kind and gentle words.

She didn’t run, but walked away,
still dipping her beak left and right,
still coming up empty, still crying. 

At the corner, I had to turn one way,
and she another, but I glanced back:
two students had noticed her

and one of them was mocking
that awful sound she was making,
and the student suddenly lunged at the duck,

frustrated by that sound, but the other student
stopped her friend and said, “No,
don’t scare her.”

Jane Beal
Uncaged (in progress)


“All the Birds on Christmas Day” by Jane Beal

I didn’t know the birds were weeping.
They might have been singing praise!

The black phoebe, the hummingbird,
the distant geese I heard –

I thought they were a choir
for the most extraordinary birthday

the world has ever known.
But maybe the Great White Egret

standing on the side of the freeway,
not wading in the wetland waters

should have been my clue
that there is no joy on earth

not mingled
with lingering grief.


Davis & HWY 37


LISTEN: “Haunting” (Great White Egret)

Poems by Daniel Kerdin

He Who Lets the Birds Fly Free

He who lets the birds fly free
And fish, in infinite oceans, swim
Sees the ant in his small domain
And loves the microscopic brain
That drives him, running, day by day
Hurrying his life away

He who gives the bird, the fish,
The ant, the brain, the life, the day,
Observes that all is good that’s made
In love that will not fail or fade
And only asks that, in our love,
We do as He does, from above

To Him who lets the birds fly free
And us, made in His image, walk
Out of the darkness into light
In our domain, I pray He might
Bless my running,
Bless how I strive
To swim, to fly, to be alive.

Daniel Kerdin
Of Poetry and God (2016)



On this bright morn the birdsong is a prayer
Chimed across the Norwich fields and meadows
Chorused in jubilation,
Spreading its beauty
Across the sunlight and silence
Unfolding its ecstasy
To earthly kingdoms
And to realms beyond

And on this day, within my anchorage
Blessed by my wounds
And after long seclusion and reflection,
I recognise no wrath in our creator
The quill upon the parchment
Remembers and relates
The love and the compassion
Of Mother Christ
I fathom no sin in man
As I reflect
That imperfection is our road to God.

Much has been shown to me
Of things divine,
Much can be read
Within my revelations
But you need only
To listen to the birdsong,
Reminding us of truths forgotten,
Disclosing the sweet reality
That all things shall be well.

Daniel Kerdin
Of Poetry and God (2016)

“After the Election” by Jane Beal

My brother was driving down the freeway
past hundreds of dark birds on a wire
singing for joy as the sun set:

he drove back, he stopped, and he
recorded what he was seeing and hearing,
and he sent the recording to me.

I felt that peace that comes when the Spirit
expands your heart:  and tears fell down my face
as the birds lifted into the air like angels

flying together toward heaven, free and beautiful
like women who have never been held captive,
whose wings imprint the sky.

Jane Beal
Uncaged (in progress)


“The Crow & the Walnut”

I turned a corner.

Sun was up, crow was down
on the pavement cracking open
a walnut with his beak –

a distinct sound
in the chill
morning air.

I walked on, then
circled back:
only a half-shell
on the ground,
emptied of meat –

black crow cawing in
a distant tree.

Later, I remembered
walnuts are good

the proverbial wisdom
that if a nut is hard to crack,
then the eater prizes it more –

and St. Julian’s vision
of the walnut,
like the world,
held in the palm
of God’s hand.

Jane Beal
Uncaged (in progress)