Saturday, May 5, 2007

Counting Ravens

(from May 2) SUN! Clearing clouds, everything still wet from last night's Noah Rain--a thick, juicy, soaking downpour. Wind in the treetops, high and thin. Birds perch in the sunshine, warming up, drying off. The weatherman promises hail, lightning, thunder and funnel clouds today.

And just like that the sun is gone. A shower passes over, wind whips the trees, tearing loose lichens, fir needles, bits of bark, new green tips and infant pine cones. Hail! First come 1/4" pellets, and chickens run across the lawn for their coop to escape the falling sky. Then 1/2" musket balls shoot from the sky. A flash of light, an immediate crack of thunder(woo-hoo!). Sheets of hail pelt the world, and yet a hummingbird dares to dodge hailstones!

Wait awhile, the sky rips open again to the sun. Top heavy tall clouds barrel in from the southwest, like cresting ocean waves in slow motion breaking over the ridge, trailing swirling gusty winds.

Every once in a while, a raven lauches from the ridge out into that roiling airspace above the valley. Opening its wings, it seemingly lets the wind decide its course and attitude, pitch and roll, altitude and stall and tumble. The bird stretches its wings and simply lets go.

Watching all this, how can I not think the bird knows it can fly, it's designed to fly, it's gifted to fly, and above all, that it's fun to fly? Why does a hummingbird fly in a hailstorm? Because it knows it can dodge hailstones? Because it wants to try?

Both of these birds have particular character(personality? attitude? or just a wild feather-hair?) trait that seems to inspire these flights--curiosity for Raven, daredevil-ishness for Hummingbird. Or maybe it's "just" some other need, like courtship or hunger.

So, what do birds know that we wish we knew?

(PS, today May 7--I SWEAR I saw a hummingbird zip-shoot straight up in the sky to about 100 feet, then stall and fall, then zip off like a UFO. Its metallic ruby throat was quite snappy against the blue sky!)

2 comments:

Neil said...

What a great photo! I remember watching ravens launch themselves off of a rocky spire in the the Blue Ridge mountains. They would leap off the rock, tumble wildly for several feet, then open their wings and swoop back up to their perch. They seemed to be mocking the ungainly earthbound rock climbers clambering inch-by-inch up the rockface. It's no wonder they were regarded as wily tricksters by so many Native American grouops.

wyldthang said...

Hi! I bet that was fun to watch those ravens experiment with flight. When I see birds doing that I try to imagine what it must feel like to open wings and have the sky lift them up. And I have to think the birds ENJOY it(like who wouldn't?)!!