Saturday, April 4, 2009

newbie birds


When I am completely overwhelmed with work and have too many deadlines, tasks, jobs, commitments, errands, chores, emails, phonecalls, and engagements that must be attended to IMMEDIATELY, I write about birds. This beautiful mystery flew to the high bush cranberry in my yard the other day. Again, I was having lunch, gazing out my dining room window, when I saw this new stranger, oblivious to the snowstorm, sitting still as a zen master in the high bush cranberry. Although you can't see it, with my binoculars I saw that on the center of its back, by its shoulders, there were two beautiful caramel coloured swatches edged in black. The rest of the bird was light blue gray. My bird expert suggests that perhaps it was a fox sparrow, which is one of the largest sparrows. It returned yesterday with 2 of its own kind, to the same bush, but this time left in a hurry.

Earlier this winter, another mystery visitor flew to my yard. It flew to the Manitoba maple outside my 2nd floor office window. It too was a soft blue gray. It was a large bird, and it too sat still as a sentinel, surveying from up high. This bird, however, had a dark black mask across its eyes and a strong beak, hooked. This was the first time I have seen a Northern Shrike, or Lanius excubitor, which means, "Butcher watchman."

"Like all shrikes, the Northern Shrike is also known as the 'butcher bird' because of its unusual practice of impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire, much in the way butchers hang meat in their shops. Mice, small birds, and large insects form the bulk of the shrike's diet.
As is typical of birds that hunt animals for food, it has a strongly notched bill that is capable of tearing flesh."

No wonder my yard, so often full of bird song, was silent as a tomb as the watchman watched. Perhaps I may find tiny bird carcasses hanging from the raspberry thorns this spring.


This red bird greets all visitors to our house. It hangs in the porch window, by the front door. It is a Finnish punatulkku. About pyrrhula pyrrhula I don't know much, except that in elderly Finnish Canadian peoples' homes, somewhere, on a wall hanging or a plate or liina [linen], you will be sure to find a punatulkku.

6 comments:

Mouse said...

Have I ever told you how beautiful I find your blog? At times it's challengng and it often makes me weep with despair and anger, but your ability to find beauty in this often-ugly world is wonderful.
Thank You

marja-leena said...

I didn't know about the punatullku, thanks for this! What a lovely hanging to greet your guests with...

northshorewoman said...

Mouse, thank you. The world is such a wondrous place, and also such a place of oppression. Quite honestly, sometimes I despair of my selfish pleasures of writing about birds when others have to deal with such terrible realities. I wonder, for example, of all the amputees left behind in Gaza, left behind from the news, left behind from our sight, left behind to deal with their disabilities as my country, Canada, condemns and bans George Galloway from trying to help them! So, that makes me crazy.

But I also believe that in order to do one's share, no matter how small it is, one needs birds in their mind. It's like yoga. Without yoga practice to sustain me, how can I cope with all the turmoil and injustices? Of course, there are other rituals to strengthen one's passage through everyday life; I am sure you have yours.

Marja-leena, can it be true that you weren't familiar with punatulkku? This is unbelievable. Is this bird only a part of the symbolic culture of Finns of NWO then? Maybe you just didn't notice it, because it is everywhere!

Merche Pallarés said...

I just love your posts! Not only your fighting spirit re the injustices of this world but your love of birds... It's simply great. I'm learning SO much!! Thank you my dear Taina, Hugs, M.

Ari said...

I don't know any grownup woman in Finland having a twitcher syndrome.
It is a very very good thing that there is at least one in Canada. It is not selfish to write about birds. Then you are thinking about birds not yourself. It is a very splendid moment when you happen to see a very rare bird. The real spring begins when European Robin comes back from south and starts it's concert. In Kauhajoki you can have a greater probability to meet more Northern Strikes( isolepin-käinen or lapinharakka in Finnish.

northshorewoman said...

thank you, Merche; I too am learning from you, learning about Spain, its people, and its past, especially your recent interesting vignettes of translating your aunt's memoirs. She was an interesting woman!

Ari, I'm not sure what a twitcher woman is, but I'm guessing it means someone who oscillates or jumps around, or who can't keep a focus. You are right, thought that by contemplating birds, one is not navel gazing. And that is important in this world of what's-in-it-for-me.

Next time I go to Finland I will go on a bird watching hike!