Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. ~ Rumi

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Standing on the Edge

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



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!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Every time I come upon the bald cypress at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, I stand in awe of them. It’s difficult to hold all of their wonder in my head so I just hold them in my heart. Along with the warmer weather the canopy has grown in and as you look up, the branches are full with more than just needles…so many life forms living together! And as I look up, my eyes are brought back down to the action in the water. I wonder if James Cameron received inspiration from these giants for his movie.

Comparatively diminutive and more delicate in nature, the pond cypress swamp is bustling. I know it’s only May but summer is here with all its wet and lightening noise! Walking on a day like this after the rain with pig frogs punctuating the thick air with their loud guttural voice, is like pushing your way through clouds that have fallen and can’t get up. How do birds do it? Well a bird’s got to eat so you can always count on seeing them. This afternoon I saw a family of Mottled Ducks on the edge of the pond cypress swamp behind my house and two molting immature Little Blue Herons, just before a Tricolored Heron flew over my head. I spotted Red Bellied Woodpeckers on a number of oaks before a Downy caught my attention. The insect population has exploded with larvae still in the water and dragon flies on the prowl. I was told that they eat deer flies, which is fine by me!

We are out of the ordinary in our experience for this time of year with wet instead of the dry down but the cypress swamp is still a magical place. The petals from the pond apples are falling on the water…and the white lilies have started to bloom three months early.

So, whatever inspires a mockingbird to sing is happening all the time now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Swamp Reflection in May

There is an openness to the swamp in winter but with the transitions of spring gone, summer is closing in and I am forced to reorient my field of vision. The canopy comes alive. I look up to see branches heavy with resurrection ferns, bromeliads, lichen, and if you look carefully, even orchids. Nesting is ongoing. The blue gray gnatcatcher's nest made out of lichen has to be the most unique nest I have seen this year. Parent birds from wrens to hawks are feeding their fledglings. Hunger is everywhere and with the mosquitoes forming the base of the food chain, food sources begin to multiply.

Besides mosquitoes, lubbers are out as well as tree frogs, oak toads, wasps, bees and the dreaded deer fly. As I look down at the water, fish are eating mosquito larvae and birds are eating fish. A grackle swoops down to pick up a lubber and the carolina wren is picking insects off the base of the trees where they meet the water, only to serenade me later with that fantastic song of his.

The leafing out of the cypress darkens the swamp and the reflections and sparks of light become more obvious and every sound is enhanced. It feels as though I am being held in a sacred space.

The water looks dark but is clear and beckons me to look closer. As I reflect on my time here this year, I have to voice how appreciative I am for the good fellowship of volunteers, staff, interns and visitors...people open to learning and guiding others how to be a part of this unique ecosystem. What a great time I had!

Learning never ends. Rejoice and thank you all!