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.
in our back yard…
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
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
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.
almost lost in the fields
of the sandhill
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.
nearly every vulture
finds a mate
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
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.
the RSPB Birdwatch —
diverse birds yearned for
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?
the kōkako’s wattles . . .
(Endemic to New Zealand, the elusive kōkako is a wattlebird. The North Island kōkako has blue wattles.)
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’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
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.
their beaks change
the beak different
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.
matching the beaks
with the names
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.
the little black dress
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.
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
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.
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