Nature is . . .
Our best insurance for immortality.
Winter is a good time to give some thoughts to birds. We tend to notice them and actually pursue them in warmer weather, but winter is a great time to observe species that migrate through an area. The cold and lack of food is a constant struggle for birds. We need them, not just for their beauty and song, but because their presence is a reminder of our own mortality.
Last night I spent some time with a hardy group of birders, searching for Short-eared Owls on the prairie. I’m pleased to say that I can add this species to my bird list. It was very cold and eventually became too dark to observe them. But we could still hear their wondrous barks and calls.
Short-eared Owls are on the Audubon’s Watch List, listed as vulnerable worldwide, and listed as endangered in many states, including Missouri. Man’s destruction of bird habitat is the number one reason for loss of species. Sometimes a species of birds will simply leave an area for another place where their habitat exists. But as we know, over time many species perish. It’s hard to accept that we, all of us, may be responsible for the destruction of any species, but we are.
The Osage had the right idea. In their language, Mon Shon Akita, meant “stewards of the land.” They recognized that they had a direct impact on natural communities, and lived in a manner to preserve rather than overcome nature. Sad that today, mankind does not always recognize the importance of preservation.
Recent news reports about thousands of birds falling from the sky probably caused alarms in most people, even non-bird lovers. While history is full of phenomenon like this, we should be alarmed, because somehow the death of this many birds at one time is likely caused by something humans did.
So when we are thinking about birds this winter, we need to think about what we can do to protect them. Providing and preserving habitat is first. Find out what you can do on your own property to promote bird habitat. Recycle, and carefully dispose of trash. Be responsible with pesticides and things that pollute water and soil. Get out and observe birds, learn about them, and pay attention to species that pass through. Know what birds are on endangered and watch lists.
In the introduction to the 1950 Audubon book, Birds of America, Ludlow Griscom acknowledges certain traits that enabled John J Audubon to overcome immense hardships to pursue his life goal of listing and painting all the species of birds in America,
“Audubon had enormous confidence in himself, inflexible determination, and the capacity of never admitting failure or becoming really discouraged.”
If each of us confidently and with inflexible determination, worked on the preservation and conservation of natural communities such as prairies and wetlands, choosing to never give up, just think about what we could accomplish!