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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Avian Adventures – Diversity (2)

Avian Adventures with Guest Editor Nancy Brady

Birds have been around since the days of the dinosaurs in the form of pteradons and archaeopteryx. Whenever I hear the distinctive squawk of a Great Blue heron, I imagine that pteradons sounded like them, filling the skies with their raucous calls. What these prehistoric birds really sounded like no one knows; however, I can state that birds have found places throughout the earth.

As a child, I was fascinated with birds, even trying to catch one by putting salt on its tail. Of course, I was unsuccessful. Along the way, I learned to identify the birds visiting our yard: cardinals, blue jays, robins, red-winged blackbirds, and even an occasional ruby-throated hummingbird.

Over the years, though, I have expanded my knowledge (and sightings) of various species of birds through travel, here in the US and abroad, and through moves – the latest to the coast of Lake Erie where birds live, gather, and migrate through the region. Having the opportunity to observe our avian friends has given me a greater appreciation of them.

In lieu of binoculars, my digital camera (DSLR) with a zoom lens has further allowed me to see individual feathers, tarsus (feet), or other parts of a bird’s external anatomy. I am not a classic birder per se, spending every free moment in pursuit of the “one that got away,” nor am I an expert (far from it), but I am an enthusiastic fan of our feathered friends, enjoying the discovery of something new. This opportunity to observe them up close and personal helps me write a fair number of haiku about birds. I hope you’ll join me in these avian adventures.

next week’s theme: Favorite Moments in Birding

Despite its raucous screechy call, my favorite bird is the blue jay. Here’s a photograph that I took of one jay taking off after grabbing a peanut. I love seeing the tail feathers fanned out, but the feathers of a jay are deceptive. I don’t know whether anyone else has really examined a jay’s feathers, but there is only a small strip of blue along one edge of each feather. Yet, when all of the feathers are combined, the jay is a vibrant blue, tipped with bands of black and white. In my opinion, not only is a blue jay striking, but it also has a rather beautiful song.

Like crows, jays also can recognize some human beings. Because I regularly throw them peanuts, the ones in the neighborhood will start calling out when I am outside. It is not all altruistic on my part though; I hope to get the penultimate blue jay photograph, which started during the early days of the pandemic. Each day my husband and I would walk around the neighborhood or head to area parks to take photographs, which included birds.

For this prompt, focus on writing a haiku about a favorite bird, an intriguing bird, or an avian adventure of your own.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday February 18, 2023.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry. (The Submit button will not be available until the Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in.) With your poem, please include any special formatting requirements & your name & residence as you would like it to appear in the column. A few haiku will be selected for commentary each week. Please note that by submitting, you agree that your work may appear in the column – neither acknowledgment nor acceptance emails will be sent. All communication about the poems that are posted in the column will be added as blog comments.

Below is Nancy’s commentary for diversity too:

Thanks again to all the poets who entrusted me with your haiku. The haiku I’ve chosen for the prompt of diversity hope to show diversity of various kinds, but some are haiku that struck me in some way. I may be way off in my interpretation of some of them; if so, please feel free to chime in. I have heard that the poet writes the words, but once out there, the reader may overlay other meanings to those words. Here are some of the thoughts that went through my head as I read these particular haiku.

a stranger
in our back yard…
yellow-breasted chat

Pat Davis
Concord, NH USA

Discovering new birds that are unfamiliar to us is a gift. Last year, my husband and I, like Pat, found a stranger in our backyard. For us, it was a red poll; for Pat, it was a yellow-breasted chat, which is often heard, but not seen according to a source. No wonder the poet considers it a stranger because this is the first time it was sighted by the poet.

no need to compare
between crane and warbler …
the way of dao

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

Daoism is an Oriental philosophy that essentially says that we are to live in harmony with everything. So, why is it necessary to compare these two birds? The tiny warbler and the much larger crane are important in their own right. We are all fortunate that both exist in nature, each having their own niche and beauty. Deborah has written a most thoughtful, contemplative haiku.

black and blue
a common male grackle displays
his bela lugosi cape

Lorraine Pester
Texas, USA

In Lorraine’s grackle, the comparison of the iridescence of the black and blue feathers of the grackle and the Bela Lugosi’s cape of Dracula fame in the bird’s wing just paints such a vivid picture for me. I can see the grackle raising his wing outward, looking just like Dracula. As a result, this haiku just makes me smile. Besides, this grackle may be a thespian.

whooping crane
almost lost in the fields
of the sandhill

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA

This haiku is intriguing to me because I see two comparisons going on here. The first is the subtle differences between the sandhill crane and the whooping crane, and the other is why the whooping crane can’t be seen (blends in) in the fields. Has it lost its way, or are there so many sandhill cranes in this field that the whooping crane can’t be seen in the larger group of birds? Or is this whooping crane a juvenile, which is colored more like the sandhill crane, and therefore nearly invisible? In the end, it leaves me with a mystery that I can’t solve definitively. I can only overlay my own story of what I think is happening. Then, of course, there is the issue of the whooping crane being endangered, and not knowing the difference between the two types of cranes might be costly.

the comfort
nearly every vulture
finds a mate

Harrison
Netherlands

This haiku takes on vultures, which are not considered beautiful except by their mates. People tend to turn away from them except in Hinckley, Ohio, where the city celebrates the return of the turkey vultures each year, but I digress. Personally, I find vultures to be absolutely awesome birds, and I have written several poems about them (including at least one haiku). I have a poem written from the point of view that vultures are the ultimate “reduce, recycle, reuse” birds to another poem with the view that they mate for life and mourn for their dead. Many humans can’t claim to be good stewards who care about the earth enough to try to reduce, recycle, and reuse, and many of us don’t mate for life. Harrison takes the view that it is comforting that vultures find mates, no matter what they look like. And it is comforting, isn’t it?

redshank greenshank woodcock whimbrel curlew godwit knot bean goose

simonj
UK

This monoku appears to be, at first, a list of similar species of wading birds, that is, until simonj adds a twist, the knot bean goose. This bird is a kind of waterfowl, but it’s a goose and has the shape of other geese. The other birds are varieties of sandpipers. I must admit to recognizing the names of some of the various birds, but I had to look up some of the others to see the diversity in them. One of the most prominent features of these sandpipers is the length of their bills and whether they are curved or not, and therein lies the diversity that simonj has shown readers in his monoku.

Annual ritual:
the RSPB Birdwatch —
diverse birds yearned for

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK

Looking up what the RSPB Birdwatch is, I discovered that it is a yearly event for bird watchers of all kinds. They don’t even have to leave their backyards; they are just asked to report what birds they’ve seen (or if there are not any birds, report that as well). The purpose is to see how the birds are faring, but to notice any species, especially something rare, is a treat.

An hour’s drive away from my home is Magee Marsh in Ottawa County, Ohio, which is one of the premier spots for migratory birds to come through each spring. Birders flock to Magee Marsh every spring for Birding Week. Like in Jenny’s haiku, who doesn’t want to see the diversity of the bird population?

how blue
the kōkako’s wattles . . .
day moon

(Endemic to New Zealand, the elusive kōkako is a wattlebird. The North Island kōkako has blue wattles.)

Sue Courtney
Orewa, New Zealand

Sue Courtney lives in New Zealand where the kōkako lives. In particular, she is writing a haiku about the (blue) wattlebird, which has wattles near its beak. These birds, like many birds of New Zealand, are relatively flightless. They are poor fliers. Many of the native birds of New Zealand are nocturnal, but the kōkako is out during the day. It seems to me that not only are the wattles of the kōkako a bright cerulean blue, but Sue is also comparing them to the sky and its day moon. That she is seeing a bird that is elusive and noticing its bright blue wattles makes it a true joy. The extinct South Island wattlebird had orange wattles, by the way.

birds of a feather–
a white robin
among the flock

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

Ruth Holzer’s haiku struck me because of her use of a white robin. Traditionally, most robins look alike with the traditional (iconic) red breast, but obviously this robin looks a bit different. Recently, a friend of mine posted a photograph of a robin that returns every year to her neighborhood. It is a white robin, and by that, I mean it has white patches of feathers covering its body. It is caused by a genetic condition called leucism. Yet despite this, according to Ruth’s haiku, this white robin is just part of the flock.

on a bough
a CROW and a crow
and a CroW

Joevit Prado
Philippines

With a few word font changes, Joevit’s haiku demonstrates just how much diversity there is among blackbirds, particularly crows. Crows belong to the same group of birds as ravens and rooks as well as some other birds, and they are known as the crow family or Corvids. At a distance, they all look about the same. My take on Joevit’s use of all capital letters for one crow, all lowercase letters for another crow, and the mixture of capital and lowercase letters is to show the diversity of the various family members in relation to their sizes. What a clever way to show these three birds to be different.

Galapagos finches
watch how
their beaks change

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

galapagos
the beak different
of finches

Angiola Inglese
Italy

Both Helga Stania and Angiola Inglese take on what Darwin discovered when he visited the Galapagos Islands: that the beaks of the various finches were different based on their individual diets. As their diets changed, so, too, did the shape of the finches’ beaks through the process of evolution. Both of these haiku show the diversity of these finches.

birding—
matching the beaks
with the names

Neena Singh
India

Following up Helga’s haiku and Angiola’s haiku is Neena Singh’s haiku, which touches on a similar theme. One of the ways that birders identify different birds is through their beaks. The shape of a beak is based on the particular diet a bird eats. Neena’s haiku is showing that the birders are determining what species they are seeing by their beaks. It may well be that these birders are being tested on their knowledge by matching the beaks with the names of the birds.

crows
accessorising
the little black dress

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

Every woman, who owns an iconic little black dress, wants to find (and wear) the perfect accessories to make her look good. Often, it is with a little “bling” like diamond studs and/or a jeweled necklace. Crows, too, are rumored to like shiny things, and Keith is comparing crows with women who accessorize their little black dress. This haiku works for me, but then I have several little black dresses and am always looking for the perfect accessory.

India
a kaleidoscope
of cultures

Sreenath
India

Sreenath lives in India which is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world. It truly is a nation of many different cultures, making it truly a kaleidoscope. Sreenath’s haiku represents the theme of diversity well.

wild crows . . .
I stumble over
many eyes

Richa Sharma
India

Richa Sharma’s haiku made me stumble when I first read it; however, I kept reading it because it drew me back again and again. I had difficulty in understanding it, but the haiku didn’t let go of me. Eventually, with time and extra readings, I finally decided, perhaps incorrectly, that these wild crows were watching Richa (or she felt their many eyes were on her), thus making her uncomfortable, causing her to stumble. I could be misreading the haiku, but can you think of a better explanation for it? I’d love to know your opinion of this or any of the other haiku I have highlighted this week.

I look forward to reading all of the haiku you submit in the coming week.

 

Join us next week for Nancy’s selection of poems on the theme of favorite moments in birding…

 

Guest Editor Nancy Brady is a pharmacist by profession, a haiku and senryu poet by nature. She often found inspiration on her treks back and forth to work as a pharmacist; her first book of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, was a foray into publishing haiku. Three Breaths, her second book, is a mix of haiku, senryu, alternative forms, and other poems. Her work has appeared in journals all over the globe (both print and electronic) and rejected by many more. Nancy also writes other genres including a blog, and plans to publish a children’s book in 2023. She also reads lots of novels. Her favorite is, and remains, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, but she is also a big Harry Potter fan. Now retired, she, her husband Rob, and their cat, Regular Arcturus Black, live in Huron, Ohio, a block from Lake Erie, where the bird population is constantly changing.

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Managing Editor Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019). Find her at: kjmunro1560.wordpress.com.

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

Please note that all poems & images appearing in Haiku Dialogue may not be used elsewhere without express permission – copyright is retained by the creators. Please see our Copyright Policies.

This Post Has 27 Comments

    1. Dear Karen,
      Thanks, I agree. With such a brief poetic form we have all embraced, Joevit manages to express his thoughts succinctly.

  1. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you so much for including my kōkako haiku. I am impressed by the research you have done on this and other contributions. I’ve enjoyed your commentaries and have learnt about birds, like the yellow-breasted chat and grackle, I’ve not encountered before.

    There is a $10,000 reward being offered for a verified sighting of the South Island kōkako, which has now gone from ‘extinct’ to ‘data deficient’. And here is a link to a video of the North Island kōkako https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClKdFpYeybY in case there are any fanatic birders reading these comments and would like to see and learn more about this unique bird.

    Finally, Neena Singh’s haiku birding— / matching the beaks / with the names brings to mind the birding beach patrols that are done here to collect dead sea birds (or ‘wrecks’). Sometimes they are in such a deteriorated condition that it is only the beak that confirms the identification. Sadly there will be many wrecks on the beaches after our recent storms.

    1. Dear Sue,
      I appreciate your words about the research I have done as I tried to fill in any birding knowledge I sorely lacked. I have enjoyed expanding my knowledge during this period even if some of my attempts fell short or were erroneous. The number of new bird species (like the kokako, the yellow-breasted chat, etc.) I have added to my vocabulary grew immensely. Now I know where the NZer haiku journal got its name; it was an aha moment for me!

      I do hope that the red kokako is found and not extinct as thought. That seems like a great reason to visit your lovely country. Thanks for the link; I hope others will view it.

      I didn’t realize that Neena’s haiku was so relevant to your birders and their ‘wreck’ identification. Hopefully, the storms will subside somewhat in your corner of the world, and fewer birds will be lost and need to be identified. Stay safe. ~nan

  2. Dear Nancy,

    Thank you very much for selecting my “white robin” haiku for your commentary.
    I watched the flock interacting on the ground and the leucistic robin appeared to be accepted by all the others. They may have a deeper recognition of one another than just the visual.

    1. Dear Ruth,
      Your white robin and the others in the flock is a lesson for all of us, don’t you think? That the other robins see something beyond the color of feathers? Had I not known about leucism (pronounced LUKE-ism), I might have wondered about your white robin, but even that would have been worthy of comment.

  3. Dear Nancy,
    The short-list you have chosen is interesting and I like most of them. Especially, Deborah Karl-Brandt’s the way of dao, Joevit Prado’s CROW, crow and CrOW.
    wild crows . . .
    I stumble over
    many eyes

    I too interpreted it in the way you did but Richa Sharma’s explanation is informative.
    I also liked the following in the long list
    sky or sea
    color of their eyes
    undecided

    Lanka Siriwardana

    etching a blue streak
    across this stream
    a kingfisher

    Charles Harper

    hiding in plain sight –
    a rainbow
    in the crow’s wing

    Jonathan Aylett

    1. Hi Radhika,
      I am glad you enjoyed reading the commentary on the haiku I’ve chosen. I liked that Richa more fully explained her haiku. As I said, it was a haiku that kept nagging at me, and part of that was my lack of understanding of it. I wanted to understand it, and I took a stab at what I thought might be going on. Those haiku moments for the poet can be expanded by the reader, and isn’t that the great thing about this short form we are writing?

      There were so many haiku that were worthy of being commented upon, and probably I could have chosen a few more. I’ m thrilled you mentioned a few that you particularly liked or found to be intriguing. I have to agree with you; they are definitely worth mentioning. Jonathan’s rainbow in the crow’s wing, Charles’ fast-flying kingfisher, and Lanka’s changing colors of the sea, sky, and eyes.

        1. Dear Lanka,
          Thanks so much for that compliment. There are times when my way of thinking is WAY too vivid, and some people, like my younger sister, worry. I am just glad I am making some sense here with my comments.

  4. Thank you Nancy for adding my haiku to comment: I have taught math and science for many years and was fascinated by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, due to the diversity of food on the islands. It was very pleasant to have read two haiku on the same theme , above all I appreciated Helga ‘s so similar to mine , but also Neena ‘s .
    I live by the sea, in Liguria and I mostly see seagulls and cormorants, companions of my solitary walks and always present in my photographs, I always wait for them to take off. Excuse my english translated with google…

    1. Hi Angiola,

      The two haiku (yours and Helga) were too similar to not comment on them both, and coming from a scientific background myself, Darwin, his finches, and their diverse feeding habits may be the epitome of describing diversity in a few words. I felt they needed to be commented upon, as well as Neena’s, which is not dissimilar to yours and Helga’s. I purposely put them together in that order for that reason since it seemed to me, at least, that they seemed to work together well. It is nice to know you felt similarly.

      Where I live is a lakeside city, just a block from Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, and the river that flows into it. Like you, gulls and cormorants are constantly flying around, and I don’t think we ever take a walk to the local park that we don’t photograph either the gulls or the cormorants. It doesn’t matter if it is winter or summer for the gulls; various species are there. May you get the perfect photo of your local gulls and cormorants, and thanks for commenting. ~Nan

  5. Dear Nancy,

    In this haiku, ‘stumble’ has been used to convey a message. Even in the face of diverse disagreements, it is advisable not to stumble, rather keep following the intuitive development of wisdom as symbolised by wild crows. It’s nice to know that there is a strange feeling attached to this haiku that you have captured so well.

    I love all the different interpretations that readers may like to offer. It’s this crucial part that keeps us all flowing with creativity.

    Warm regards,
    Richa

    1. Thanks Richa for the enrichment. I agree; I like hearing (reading) different interpretations.
      All my best,
      Nan

  6. Thank you so much, Nan, for selected my poem for commentary. You understood mine so well. I was both referring to the fact that we would get so many sandhill crane in the fields that it could be very difficult to spot a whooping crane and also that, since they are endangered, there were almost none of them to see. I was just grateful to be in one of the two places helping to save them and that I ever saw them in the wild.

    1. Eavonka, thanks for the kind remarks. I think that it is neat that you are trying to protect the whooping crane and that you had the opportunity to see both the sandhill cranes and an endangered whooping crane in the field. I was surprised at how high the fine is for killing a whooping crane. It’s an expensive mistake for sure.

      I’ve seen a few sandhill cranes in the wild, but not many. On the other hand, after Super-storm Sandy, we have some pelicans who now come back to our area in the summer, and the squadron of pelicans is growing larger. Apparently, they were blown off course during the storm and ended up near Lake Erie.

      Again, thanks for commenting.

  7. Hi Keith,
    Thanks for the kind remarks on the various commentaries. Jenny’s, Harrison’s, and yours, of course. Thanks for adding in the extra haiku to illustrate; that’s helpful.
    I don’t know if you heard of this study or not (and I may be forgetting part of it) , but a group of researchers daily walked the same path, about the same time, where quite a few crows always perched. They walked for a period of time, but I don’t recall how long they ran the experiment (weeks? month?). The crows seemed to recognize the different researchers, that is, until the day the researchers wore masks over their faces (purposely). That day, the crows reacted very differently, and almost attacked some of them. Returning a bit later, the researchers again walked by, but got the typical reaction from the crows…we know these people and they are safe. Crows (and other corvids) are supposedly some of the most intelligent of birds.
    Thanks again for commenting. ~Nan

  8. Hi Nancy. The transition from sandpipers to geese is after knot. (Delete this comment if you want to change your post.)

    1. Hi Simonj,
      Thanks for your comment. Monoku are always interesting to read because of their lack of punctuation, and therein lies the openness to understanding. With your interpretation, I now amend my commentary that beginning with the word “knot” in the monoku, there are different ways to read it. There is the sandpiper called the “knot;” there is the “knot bean goose”, and the “bean goose.” Still, a cleverly written monoku, which shows how much diversity there is between these avian species. ~Nan

        1. It was my intention to disrupt the rhythm as the bird family changed, as a nod to my own surprise.
          Instead, I seem to have created confusion.

          1. Hi Simon,
            Thanks for the information. As I say in my introduction, I am not an expert, and as Michelangelo, at age 87, was purported to say, Ancaro Imparo (I am still learning) applies to me. I am still learning. So, again, thank you.

  9. Dear Nancy,

    Thank you so much for your beautiful and insightful commentary on each poem. The theme gave me an opportunity to write this poem with a touch of surrealism. Extremely honoured and humbled 🙏 I enjoyed reading all the different responses to the prompt. Looking forward to learning from more gems in the coming days. Congratulations to all!

    1. Hi Richa,
      Thank you for kind remarks about all the commentaries. I loved the touch of surrealism in yours, and can understand being “creeped out” (my words, not yours) about all those eyes watching, enough to make you stumble. I hope to have others comment on all the commentaries because they may see things that I didn’t. As I said above, the poets write (with the knowledge of prompted the writing), but the reader interprets (based on the knowledge of what has happened in the past). Thank you again for making me reach on yours. ~Nan

  10. Thanks, Nancy! You read me perfectly.

    I often wonder how crows distinguish between other crows, too….

    caw
    a crow asserts
    its identity

    Jenny Shepherd’s haiku found an echo. Like poetry, I prefer bird-watching not to be competitive…. but I’m sure we are not the only ones to put out extra food for the hour’s scientific sampling of birds in Birdwatch. This year’s Birdwatch was notable for the small variety and number of birds in our garden following the arctic spell before Christmas. Also the year-long depredations of suburban cats:

    housecats kill the mute averted eyes

    I liked Harrison’s vulture… dreamy…

    leftovers
    two vultures
    fall in love

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