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Standing on the Edge

June 29, 2010

Stand on the edge of a field with the woods behind you, eyes closed.

Breathe.

Listen.

Open your eyes.

Take in the whole scene…use your panoramic vision. Don’t focus on any one thing. While the beauty of your environment holds you still, notice the birds but don’t focus on them. Before long their flight patterns will come into view…bird highways… as my friend called them. From time to time focus on the way a bird flies. The first flight pattern I learned was the woodpecker. Not good at soaring and in a hurry to get to the next tree, they flap and dip, flap and dip, over and over. Actually, this is how I began my interest in birds, by watching how they moved through the air. For beginning minds in the field this is an excellent place to begin. Classifying bird observations in this way also helps you to remember what you’ve seen more easily.

This past week, as I was giving a school group a tour of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, we were treated to a scene from the Carolina Wren family. As I practiced my “edge of the field” technique, my panoramic vision took in the bottom edges of the swamp, now my “field”. With the low canopy in the swamp above me, the sounds of their foraging pointed me toward the water. The Carolina Wren fledglings were begging for some attention with assorted calls and tugging at leaves growing on a fallen log. The mother swooped in and fed them, then flew to an adjacent maple branch hanging low beside the dark water. They flew back and forth to be fed but eventually, their exploration on that log seemed to garner some nourishment. What a sight! The children were elated at seeing this family scene, all without the aid of binoculars.

I’ve had so many wonderful moments in this way. Remember. Take in the whole picture. Listen. Stay there for awhile until you notice the patterns and sounds of flight, short or long, simple or complex. The edge is a wonderful place to explore!

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