Today in Bird World

After watching the Port Lincoln Osprey Nest last year and Iris at Hellsgate in Montana, I vowed ‘never again’. The death of the third hatch, little Tapps, was simply too much. I vowed to stick with watching Big Red and Arthur at the Fernow Nest in Ithaca, New York, two or three Peregrine Falcon nests, and I would check in occasionally on the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head. But then something happened and the Achieva Osprey nest became a constant while I waited for Big Red and Arthur to start their nest renovations and the eggs to arrive and watched others periodically. I remember before the notion of competition set in that it was so lovely to see the three politely standing and being fed. It gave me hope. I watched the 2020 highlights of the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest and fell in love with Louis, Aila, Doddie, Vera, and of course, JJ7 – Captain. Tiny Tot reminds me, in a way, of the challenges that JJ7 could have had but, didn’t. Louis fished day and night to feed his family and he was on the nest helping Aila tandem feed. One took JJ7, the tiny little male, third born – the ‘tercel’. The other parent fed the two bigger ones. Everyone thrived! Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

27 June 2020 Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest
5 July 2020. Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest

It was a very good thing that Tiny Tot, the youngest on the Achieva Osprey nest had its own private feeding yesterday from 4:27-4:48. Tiny was so full that even with Diane insisting, he could not hold another bite. Today, he had only about five small morsels of fish. The two early fish deliveries were too small to fill Tiny up never mind 1 and 2. But Tiny did bide his time and got up when there was some fish left to have 2 step in and decide it was not full enough. Having waited long enough for Jack to deliver food, Diane brought in a nice sized fish to feed all at 7:22. Then Jack showed up, with a crop, and took it before she could even feed a bite to the chicks. It was dark when Jack returned the fish but, I bet he ate the nice head. Normally, I would agree he should. It is hard work fishing – they say that they have a 20% success rate. But Jack had a crop. Neither Diane or Tiny got more than a couple of bites. Of course, the question remains ‘why’. The pattern is roughly three good days and three relatively poor ones. I hope that tomorrow Jack proves me wrong.

Just as I hope Jack surprises me tomorrow, an article on Ospreys surprised me today. It wasn’t actually the article – the world needs more stories about these magnificent birds. Rather, it was the glossy weekly magazine that is known more for politics and its reviews of art, restaurants, books, and the theatre-The New Yorker. ‘The Joy of Watching the Ospreys Return.’ is by Alexander Aciman. Aciman shares his love of one particular Osprey nest that he has watched for many, many years. The article describes the incredible abilities of the Osprey including the fact that the mated pair leave separately, winter in different locations yet return to ‘their’ nest in the spring. The author is amazed by the ability of these fish eating birds to travel from the United States to Mexico, Central or South America and return to a spot no bigger than a sofa cushion, annually. There was sadness at the nest in 2020 – all three chicks died. Park rangers determined that the cause was parasites living in the nest and to avoid the same catastrophic event again, they tore down the old nest after the couple had migrated. Aciman wonders if the mated pair will return after such sadness. To date, the female has arrived and is rebuilding the nest.

In my post were two books. Population Ecology of Raptors by Ian Newton is ex-library. Published in 1979, the book covers dispersion, breeding density and everything else to do with breeding, mortality rates at the time and causes, as well as conservation ecology. It came highly recommended but with a word of caution – we have learned much because of streaming cams, tagging, and satellite transmitters and facts about raptors have changed since 1979. You might want to have a peek. Maybe your library still has a copy or can order it for you.

UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Nest. Hatch watch beings on 17 April!

The second book is Becoming Wild. How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina. As one of the reviewers states, ‘Safina has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.’ I like Safina for his directness. The book examines the lives of three non-human species: Sperm Whales, Scarlet Macaws, and Chimpanzees.

Safina tells us how they live, how they teach one another, and how they learn. And then he hits his readers with the question: ‘Will we let them continue to exist or will we finalize their annihilation?’ I am looking forward to writing a full review of this book for you when I have finished reading it and digested its contents. My speed reading of the Introduction and part of chapter 1 tells me this book is going to be more than interesting.

Just checking in on some of the Osprey nests in the United Kingdom today. They sure were having nasty weather for April the past couple of days with snow and gale force winds.

Laddie (LM12) and Blue NC0 have had to deal with the high winds tearing up their nest and then snow.

There was wet snow over at the Clywedog Nest in Wales. This is Dylan bringing a gift of a pinecone for Seren (Blue F5).

A soaked Dylan comes in with a beautiful pinecone as a gift for Seren. 6 April 2021

The Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest has been experiencing blizzard like conditions. Everyone is hoping that Louis and Aila will arrive anytime but the bad weather might have slowed them down. Even so, Osprey are perfectly capable of being covered in snow and incubating their eggs with no dire results.

Over at the Rutland Mantou Bay nest, Blue 33 (11) has been bringing in more nesting materials for Maya who is incubating the couples three eggs. Today, she has also had to defend her nest against another intruder. Maya is formidable and I wouldn’t want to land on her nest by mistake!

Blue 33 (11) brings in nesting materials.

I love how Blue 33 (11) loves to spend time with Maya on the nest cuddled together. He is a great catch! Maya, you are sooooooo lucky!

Thank you for joining me today and for sharing your lives with these wonderful birds. More news tomorrow on any more arrivals of UK Osprey and a look at satellite tracking and its benefits. Take care!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I obtained my screen shots: Rutland Mantou Bay Ospreys, Woodland Trust and Peoples Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Carnyx Wild Wales YouTube channel, and UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Cam.

How Blessed I Am

In her Ph.D. thesis, June Raby (University of Brighton, 2015) titled “Material, memory, metaphor:  convergences of significance in the ceramic vessel” states, “… that the most important task of a useful pot is to generate caring”.  Raby continues discussing that some of the things in our life that we consider so important, such as cell phones and automobiles, do not generate real caring at all.  But, more to the point, she discusses the practice of purchasing pots and whether or not we need them and ultimately two questions arise for the author.  The first is, “How is it [the pot] to live with?” and “How would it be to live without it?”   We all know that beautiful pots to put our food on feed our eyes and our soul.  The Japanese have known this for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Western society is just picking up on this with the recent turn to purchasing lovely bespoke dishes.  Raby says, “Dishes can sidle up to you the way a dog sits at your feet while you’re eating; you start petting his head without really thinking about it, but something good comes through.  You find you feel a little warmer, a little softer or kinder, a little more in sympathy with the world.”  This brings me to the goblet that is the featured image.  It was made by Pamela Nagley-Stevenson, fired in her two-chamber wood kiln, and mailed to me, arriving a few days ago.  It is not just a pot that meets the basic criteria of being good to live with, it humbled me, and made me feel close to a group of women that I so admire – those who fire with wood in Canada.  And it arrived at a special time for me.

For the past three years, I have been researching the Vietnam resisters that came to Canada.  The intention was to write a book on the topic but something happened.  One of the men said to me one day that the women “didn’t give up anything when they came to Canada”.  A year of research negates that notion.  The women gave up a lot – the ability to drive or walk across town and meet their friends, family, and colleagues in a casual way, lost their studios, their careers, their identity and place in the world.  It is incorrect to believe that they could return any time they wanted.  It took money and means and both were often in short supply.  True, the women did not face criminal charges or would go to jail but it has to be remembered that more women came to Canada in the time of the Vietnam era than the men.  They often came to bring comfort to the men.  In the end, a large majority of the marriages and partnerships broke up.  Which is where Pamela Nagley-Stevenson’s beautiful goblet comes in.  We had a short e-mail exchange and I confided to her that I have lost the passion to deal with the men who came to Canada and impacted ceramics.  I have written about this in various journals such as The Studio Potter and I have given talks on the subject.  The University of Toronto is interested in the manuscript but the reality is this:  women still face obstacles.  If this were the last five years of my life, what do I want to leave as my legacy?

This morning an article that appeared in the New Yorker, October 8, 2018, arrived in the mail.  The title is “Annals of Art.  The Canvas Ceiling.  New York’s postwar female painters and the obstacles they faced” by Claudia Roth Pierpont (beginning on page 20).  A note inside the envelope reads:  Lighten my understanding, Kindle my will, begin my doing, Incite my love, strengthen my weakness, enfold muy desire.  It continues:  Mary Ann, so timely – really enjoyed this article and thought you would as well.  Pamela.         Every woman needs a reminder that their life and quest are important.  Thank you, Pamela.

Pamela’s goblet has, like so many pieces made by my friends, added to my daily life in a positive way.  I am grateful for her friendship and for that of so many of the women wood firers in British Columbia I have come to know and those that I need to get to know.

Ceramics has the ability to add love to your life.  I have coffee with Gunda every morning.  She is there with me in the beautiful temmoku mug I have of hers.  It brings me joy and links us even though we are thousands of miles apart.

So, if you are reading this and get to this point, I ask you to consider two things.  If you know of a woman who fires a wood kiln, let me know.  The history of Canadian wood firing needs to include them.  If you are buying holiday gifts, stop and understand that a bespoke piece of ceramics can enrich an individual’s life more than anything that is purchased that has been mass manufactured.  But, make sure that it is beautiful and useful, that it reflects the care of a well trained artist.

Namaste.