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Sunday, April 19, 2020

In Praise of the Sun

The sun, dominating the horizon during my first hour of Outdoor Church
I missed sunrise this morning, as I didn't get outside until 45 minutes later.  But during my 4 hours of Outdoor Church in the yard, I became increasingly cognizant and appreciative of my relationship to the sun.

During the first hour, with the sun low on the horizon, the local weather station was showing a temperature of 36F, but there was still frost on our cars.  I was constantly dancing with the sun, to get warm, to position my body so that I could better see the birds in my yard.  Eventually, the sun climbed higher, as did the temperature.  But I was constantly looking around the sun--avoiding looking directly at it, yet looking to see where its light was most effectively making it possible to see and identify the loons, cormorants, and other birds as they passed by (see my eBird list here).

It was a perfect Sun day.  And though we still have one day of the week that carries its name, we are a culture committed to severing ourselves from the sun.  We use subterranean fossilized sunshine for most of our energy needs.  We are Hadean, rather than Celestially oriented. Our daily cycle, dominated by artificial lighting, is less and less tied to the sun.  Even our calendar, once dominated by Moonths and the passage of the sun, is now more dominated by fiscal years and quarterly financial forecasts.  Past societies literally built their most prominent buildings to line up with the passage of the sun.  The sun is shining, but we mostly just use it as a light source for our outdoor entertainments.

But sitting in my yard, I ponder all the ways the sun still sustains us--all the plants in my yard, also dancing to best catch the sun's rays, all the birds, all the other life forms, moving in daily and seasonal cycles with the sun.  All my food that needs the sun to grow. Light, warmth, and comfort. As a birder, I dance with those birds, as they dance with the sun.

It was a perfect Sun day, as should be they all!

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Birding the COVID-19 Shutdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed many people and disrupted the lives of many more.  While it is a terrible tragedy and scary for all of us, I've been birding a lot from my yard as well as local hotspots I can get to without having to bump into too many people.  I've got my NFC station up and running, and have already had a couple of Virginia Rails caught on tape.  I am currently #1 on eBird for the Delaware County this year, and my yard list is currently #1 in the county and #6 in Pennsylvania.

Today I was looking for Horned Larks and American Pipits--two tough birds to get in my county.  No dice in a field where they were seen yesterday (and missed by me later in the afternoon), but I did manage to get a photo of a Vesper Sparrow that has been hanging out there.  And just as I was going to leave, a Wild Turkey wandered across the field--my first for Delaware County and my overall county bird #235.  So, yay!

Vesper Sparrow, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

After the fields at Glen Mills, I headed down to check my local patch, the Delaware River behind the Philadelphia Airport.  My first Forster's Terns of the year were hanging out on the low tide sandbar until the local Bald Eagles put them up.  21 Wilson's Snipe in a ditch, and 13 American Kestrels hunting on the airport runways were high counts.  On my way home, an American Coot--surprisingly tough to see in the county, was bird #128 for me in the county this year.

My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering.  For those who are able, enjoy your yard birds or birds close to home.  Be safe, be healthy, be well!
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