Dead or alive? Does it matter for a bird sighting?

Fox Sparrow

The rich chestnut color and enormous size of this sparrow distinguish it from others in the Carolinas.


The question sounds cold, but sticks in my mind, because a Fox Sparrow is an interesting find, not endangered by any means, but not common either.  Certain birders have a sort of pride about stalking and then “pishing” or flushing out the object of their desire, thus validating the life-list item by their mastery of birding techniques.  Obviously this would not qualify by any of those standards.  (“Pishing” is a birder’s imitation of a commonly heard alarm call–think in particular the Tufted Titmouse.)

The most official criterion, though, is simply that one have a photo.  So this one does qualify by that requirement.  Reviewers would remark that the bird is obviously dead, so it would probably be marked as illegitimate.  See E-bird’s Data Quality Control Page for some more information on the evidence citizen science counts and maps expect.

The location is not totally unexpected (NC mountains), but who says that this bird couldn’t have been a late migrant who decided to stop for a bite to eat around our house, then took mortal offense at his challenging reflection?

So I have no firm answers really.  But I am thankful to have witnessed some of God’s beauty manifest in the birds, even in a sad context.

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More birds! Including my favorite, the Field Sparrow

I recently ventured out to a prairie region of McDowell Nature Preserve, hoping to find a few spring-enamored feathered characters.  Here is what I found:



Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wood Ducks (three)

Wood Ducks (three)

female Red-Winged Blackbird

female Red-Winged Blackbird

first Field Sparrow of the season

first Field Sparrow of the season

Here are a few older ones, but worthy of inclusion nonetheless:

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (can you tell I like them, too?)

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch (treasure hunt!!)

God bless and have a good week.

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Five birds from McDowell Nature Preserve and a business park

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

Power line Doves

I took all five of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix L810 26x optical zoom

Ready Robin Shining Bluebird Singing Mockingbird


Happy birding, everyone!


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The parable of the Widow

Hello readers!

Today I feel remarkably compelled to re-tell a much-told story.  In fact, I have felt so compelled for a few weeks, but up until now, could not remember the motivation.

The story to be told, one often told, is that about the Widow’s Offering, in Luke 21:1-4 in the Holy Bible (New International Version).  “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’ ”

The motivation, readers, was a National Geographic article about the Kyrgyz people in the forbidding Afghanistan territory called the “Wakhan Corridor”.The reason the Kyrgyz people reminded me of that passage should be clear to those of you who are familiar with the region.  See the article here:

It is a land where mortality rate is stiff and fortune seems rare.  But these people, in a seemingly hopeless land, find reasons to hope and reasons to lead with a commitment rivaled by few, and though not a boisterous people, their famous “yurts” constructed out of dull sticks and felt feature, on the inside, a rich variety of ornate quilts.  A people led by a fellow called the “Khan”, they number barely over one thousand.  Their life is a continuous giving of all they have for each other.

Nature hands us other examples: consider this narrator (William Martha) describing the song of the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (follow the link to hear).  He describes the “outpouring of song” which is remarkable for such a little bird (3.5 inches-4.5 inches).  Consider also the familiar Cardinal, piping songs that can be heard for at least a quarter mile, though the bird  itself is only seven inches or so long.

Northern Cardinal 10

And at the gym, I found yet another example: a blind woman venturing out several times a week to swim, then waiting for her ride outside in the cold.  Still reaching for full living and connection.  It makes me also remember another kind person, also blind, named Ernie, who spent the ten or so years she knew us doting like the grandmothers we never knew.  She also taught us how to write braille, from which action grew a very rewarding set of correspondences, full of love and encouragement in subjects ranging from relationships to learning guitar.  In myself, I find that my innate human drives compel me to often step out of my bounds, giving all of my social anxieties away (I am autistic).  We are meant to go through life together.  

Please consider stepping out with me this year to give all that you have.  It is something we can do for the Lord Jesus, who gave us all he had, up to and beyond his life.  Stay strong and do your best–Love, Benjamin


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Special Sights

After a wonderful year of bird-watching, I want to share some of those sights that hit me right in the heart (or the funny-bone) when I saw them:

1) Downy Woodpecker’s back–I never noticed until now how peculiarly precise is the cross marking on his head.

What a crown this woodpecker wears!

What a crown this woodpecker wears!

2) A tolerant hawk — this Red-tailed Hawk young watched and watched me, until he finally grew weary of my fawning attention.

I wonder what he thought I was trying to do with my malicious-looking black camera.

I wonder what he thought I was trying to do with my malicious-looking black camera.

3) A gray-feathered cardinal scratching its back

how birds scratch their backs

4) A bold nuthatch asserting itself, even against bluebirds:

Nuthatch bold

5) The “dunce-cap” look of a nuthatch who peers horizontally from his tree descent.

Nuthatch strange

6) A grand bird scrounging in the grubby dirt; yum!

Pileated hanging out with the worms

7) Yellow-rumped warbler visiting our bird bath.

Yellow-rumped Warbler on the fence

8) Finding two sapsuckers when you thought you were taking a photo of only one.

Two sapsuckers

9) and finally, friends who will make very special things for you (this was made for my sister on her wedding day):

My heart is yours

my heart is yours.

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Birds of 2012

baby Bluebird gate Barn Swallow, Pullman Bluebird hawking insects Eastern Kingbird - contemplative Herons flying Heron's siesta from behind the hedge Mallard holiday Mockingbird baby jumping Mockingbirds fight Broad-winged Hawk Mother duck and children Mute Swan Nuthatch climbs Pileated Scared of heights

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On My Mind

Hello, reader.  This is Benjamin.  I have three things on my mind today: things that stick with you, the degradation of communication, and nature.

Now, think about some of the things that stick with you–the things you can remember, no matter what.  Maybe it’s a story, a tip of the trade, advice from a grandmother, or a certain song.  Now, a question I pose to myself: why don’t people “stick with me” in the same way?

One thing that has stuck with me is carpentry tips.  My dad must’ve told me hundreds, but a couple of the examples I can pull up now are: 1) to spit on a screw or nail before going into really hard wood and 2) while drilling a hole, pull out the drill a few times to clear the bit (it cuts better that way).

I also have pulled quite a bit of strength from things my mother has said about being yourself.  So I use this to remind myself it’s OK not to have the exact same conception as the rest of the “normal” world of serving, etc. (I’m not the best “people” person in the world).  A book called “Living Well on the Spectrum” by Valerie Gaus–which my parents got me–helps me deal with life issues related to my autism.  Autism is a neurological disorder which encompasses a “spectrum” of mind differences, which cause many problems in daily life.  It discusses brain differences that simply “are” in autistic people (when we accept that our brains work differently, we are more effective).  Then, it implements a combination observational/problem-solving method.  You find out what works.

My sister made me a cup necklace out of sculpy clay to remind me to drink water throughout the day.  Her act of kindness sticks with me.

Here are a couple of more things that stick with me: a sky of billow altocumulus and bobwhite quail venturing ever closer to my parents’ house.

But why not people (in their entirety)?  I find it difficult to remember little details like my Mom liking open skies and my dad liking forests.  I find it difficult to remember many things like that, and how they link together to form a person.  It has some to do with my autism–a “person” is a very abstract concept to my mind, and it is much easier for me to just remember Mommy as any one of her small details than to incorporate everything at once.

It upsets me–but if I try my best (and God knows if I am), God knows I am sincere.  Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  I am going to try a solution of once a week, writing down new details I’ve learned about people.  I carry around a pocket-notebook to write down these things as I observe them.


God (as I have come to understand him): the imprinted image on all humanity and creation of what we are made to do and to be:  Can I love him with all of my body (take care of yourself), mind (be responsible and content as you can be), heart (have reasons for doing what you are doing), and soul (don’t be afraid to express yourself in whatever way makes you content and doesn’t harm anyone)?

Now, on the degradation of journaling: in a world with computers, we have become very careless on what words we throw out to other people.  We have the same attentive, sensitive audience as letters, speeches, and such, but not the same pause for thought.

An official in Asheville was put on leave for a needlessly harsh, violent Facebook comment about Occupy Asheville protesters.  Celebrities around the world have to make public apologies for Tweets and other such quick-publish media.

Once upon a time, we had to write down our words carefully.  When the post office took over, we couldn’t change our words…

One of my goals is to make the special people in my life “stick with me” better.  I think it will help my words be better, too.

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