Birds of a Feather…

I visited Pat Bertam’s blog this morning in which she mentioned her surprise at the unassuming and not-quite-accurate name she discovered had been given to a visiting glossy black bird with red and gold epaulettes — the Red-winged Blackbird. She noticed that many birds are named for the colour of their plumage, and, while that’s true for some, through the years I’ve wondered how others came by their names.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk doesn’t really have shins. And I’ve yet to see the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker‘s yellow belly. In fact, it resembles a Red-naped Sapsucker. Then again, a female Red-naped Sapsucker is just as likely to have a white nape as a red one. The very distinctive Wood Duck doesn’t resemble wood at all, but perhaps the fact that it sometimes nests up in a dead tree has something to do with why it’s called that.

Did you know “Sharp-shinned Hawks carry their prey to a stump or low branch to pluck it before eating. Swallowing feathers is not normal for them, as it is for owls.” Ugh! That’s more than I needed to know right before dinnertime!

In my comment on Pat’s blog post I mentioned I have kept track of the different species of birds that visit our rural property (37 different kinds since we moved here in 1996. I have a list in the back of one of my journals.) It used to be such a delight to watch them flutter around the bird feeder…that is, until the bears claimed it as their own source of gourmet granola and I finally had to remove the feeder during summer’s bear season. Bears on my deck are not as welcome as birds.

There’s a saying that ‘birds of a feather flock together’, but I’ve noticed when a flock arrives, there is usually more than one species in it. In winter’s early mornings and late afternoons here, dozens of Dark-eyed Juncoes swoop in accompanied by Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and with them comes a singleton Song Sparrow. Is it a ‘protection in numbers’ thing, or what?

This past weekend was the annual writers’ conference that I usually attend. Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a damper on anything involving large groups of people, the conference planning committee had to be creative, and they chose to make it a virtual conference, with workshops, keynote speakers and social events all being handled online via podcasts and ‘Zoom’.

I wasn’t going to be able to attend this year anyway, but the idea of spending several hours every day staring at people on my computer screen didn’t appeal. It was an alternative, but not an ideal one, to mingling IRL. It wouldn’t be the usual weekend of writers coming together (shoulder to shoulder in some cases) being totally immersed in the atmosphere of writing. Viewed on a computer screen from my office or family room, it would lack the desirable ‘flocking’ opportunity of actually being together.

I’ve mulled my reaction over a lot, wondering how typical it is. I’ve heard people at our church saying they’re zoom-ed out…like we might say we’re burnt out. Having online meetings beats not being able to meet at all for these past seven months, but for some of us there have been a lot of Zoom meetings!

Then again, as an introvert, being physically immersed in a crowd of several hundred people for the better part of four days is tiring, too. I always return home inspired, exhilarated but exhausted. I think what makes the situation different, however, is that the crowd is comprised of my ‘tribe’, people who share a specific interest and ‘get’ me in a way other friends, family and colleagues can’t.

Hmmm… whether our feathers are red, black, brown, white, yellow or whatever, I guess there really is some truth in that ‘birds of a feather…’ thing.

~ ~ ~

3 thoughts on “Birds of a Feather…

  1. I know nothing of birds of the regular sort, but the flocking together bit I totally understand. I’ve never attended SIWC, but it sounds like a real motivator. I would not have wanted my first experience to be via Zoom. Maybe sometime in the post-COVID future. Or perhaps I shall merely continue to enjoy it vicariously through my writing group.

  2. I’ve never attended SIWC either. It’s so far away. And while a zoom sounds reasonable, I’m with you. I’ll either forget or everyone and their dog will decide to drop by that day. Love the photos, Carol. I have a bird book and yet I still scratch my head most days. Hope these comments get through; I’m having difficulty posting this week.

  3. Carol says:

    It’s been a month since Kristin and Joylene left their comments here. I did read them at the time, but never did get around to replying. It’s rude of me, I know. Some days, as much as I love getting comments here, I don’t have the impetus needed for a response. My apologies!

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