Thursday, November 19, 2015

daily doses of tiny dinosaurs

Since I took a furry dependent into my care, I’ve made it a daily habit to come home at lunch. It’s not always easy to find the 45 minutes to an hour in my workday, and I usually feel stressed and rushed as I shovel food in my face while simultaneously running around with Rosy in the backyard. But today, I decided to just sit beneath the tree and “smell the roses,” as they say.

Today was clear and beautiful and cool: the kind of cool that is replaced by the warm sun rays in the most pleasant of ways. As I sat with eyes closed, I could hear Rosy’s little nose sniffing around, the faint sounds of Youree Drive traffic, and birds. I love listening for the birds.

One block over, I heard a large flock of Cedar Waxwings. Behind me, a handful of robins making fools of themselves. In my front yard, the usual suspect, Mr. Blue Jay, doing a pretty good impression of the Red-Tailed Hawk I heard perched not too far away. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Barred Owl that lulled me to sleep last night from the pecan tree in my backyard. As visually inspiring as our avian cousins are, they deserve equal admiration for their vocalizations.

I think I love birds because they are just so ridiculous. Consider the metabolic energy that is required to produce their elaborate colors, patterns, and feather structures with the primary selective pressure being to look sexy. And then their elaborate songs! They have two voice boxes that are capable of producing sounds at the same time (thanks to a structure called a syrinx- not unlike your larynx). So basically they can sing twice… at once. And would you believe it, the primary selective pressure for this is to sound sexy. Not to mention their incredible visual capabilities that exceed our own in almost every way -- they see more of the world than we ever will. Migratory birds gaze at the night sky as little nestlings, learning the stars by which they navigate their migrations. Corvids like crows and jays can solve problems that baby humans can’t.

So here we have these furby-sized dinosaurs that are pimped out and more perceptive than many vertebrates their size. But they’re not these elusive, exotic creatures that must be sought out in the farthest reaches of the wilderness to be observed. They’re accessible; they live in the trees around our houses and serve as our personal alarm clocks each morning. They de-stress us as we sit beneath pecan trees on our lunch breaks and often raise their babies under the trusty shelters of our porches. They’ve adapted to urban settings like New York City yet still thrive in nature. These daily doses of tiny dinosaurs are part of our human experience and among the most relatable connections we have to nature in increasingly non-natural settings.

Show some love to some birds this weekend. Many are migrating right now and are weary. Be hospitable and provide them a meal. Give them a place to take a bath with fresh water. Put a cat indoors. It’s the least we can do for the tiny dinosaurs.

Bird doodles