Posted by: atowhee | July 16, 2020


Stay healthy, go outside, quietly.

this two images come from Marc Reigel, our Minnesota correspondent.  Marc is a college classmate and now an avid birder.  Here is his description of nature in covid times:

Hey, Harry – I’ve seen more rara avis specimens this spring & summer than I’ve ever seen, perhaps because I’m more attuned to them.  Or perhaps they’re more attuned to fewer people, courtesy of C-19.  Or perhaps I’ve just been in the right place at the right time – the Cooper’s hawk nest off [a friend’s] deck in Eden Prairie is a prime example.  I’ve spotted yellow warblers, Baltimore orioles, sandhill cranes, catbirds, mockingbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, butter-butts, and a redstart.  And those are just the ones I remember . . . .

So today, on a walk without my good camera and only my daughter’s iPhone, we went for a walk along Nine Mile Creek in Bloomington, about two miles from my condo.  And we start down the path, when she says, “What’s that red bird? It’s not a cardinal.”

No.  But is IS a scarlet tanager!  Only the second one I’ve ever seen, the first being maybe 35 years ago on a farm in Wisconsin.  Amaze-balls!  And he posed for us for maybe ten seconds!
So although the iPhone pics lack sharpness, one can get a pretty good idea about the way-coolness of that bird.  I was just blown away by the rarity of the sighting and the gorgeousness of its plumage.
So here he is!!
[Marc, never go outside without tour camera.  As a long-time bird addict, I confess I even take one when simply driving to run an errand in town.]
Here is my speculative answer to Marc’s email:

I think two things have coincided…we all [people] spend a lot less time driving around, shopping, doing group stuff that eats up our time…we all–who are able–walk more, are outside more.  Parks and outdoors even in cities are quieter because there is no softball or soccer or football…there are fewer airplanes in the sky…so life is quieter…many birds shy from noise because it makes them more vulnerable to predators if they can’t hear the ruffling of wings as the Cooper’s Hawk skulks through the trees…so we are more present in quiet settings which suit animals and they will ignore us when we are not screaming, giving concerts, flying about in loud planes.  When we become just another slow-moving, clumsy big mammal, they can feel safer near us and thus expand their own territories.
I recently had a conversation with long-time friend and former partner when we co-owned a fantasy baseball league team–that required rapt attention to every game and every stat in the entire season, including spring training.  He now lives in southern California desert and is outside a lot.  He used to be a fan of four sports: baseball, football, basketball and…wait for it, even hockey!  Now that covid has cut his travel and pushed him outdoors, quietly, he tells me he doesn’t care if any of those sports ever come back.  Why?  The real world, devoid of the antics of young millionaires, has plenty of excitement and complexity to keep a curious mind busy.  He sent me two tiny images of birds in his backyard: a pair of Hooded Orioles.  Wow, was his reaction.  He had lived there for many years–first time he’d noticed them.


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