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Loving birds

Modern life interferes with the lessons and warnings of Nature.
By Mike Foster
Fall 2011 8.15.11

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Colorful bird perched on branch

(©Robert Blanchard/iStockphoto)

It is easy to love birds. Just notice them. Gorgeous in their varied plumages, they delight the eye. Their songs gladden and sadden, roar and reverberate, enchant and excite. Their swooping and soaring amazes, filling us with awe and not a little envy. They accomplish feats with a beak for which we require two arms, two hands, and ten fingers. Traditionally, they have prospered in most habitats on Earth, yet many disdain a single residence. They travel with the seasons, some visiting only in the next county or state, while others migrate tens of thousands of miles every year. Some use tools, others can count, many can identify individual humans, just as we love to ID them. The more you notice birds—the diversity of their nests or mating habits or food resources—the more fascinating their versatile lifestyles become.

Loving birds is in our own best interests. Birds are indicator species, identifying all the habitats and communities and ecosystems that are in trouble today. And if natural areas and systems are in trouble, humans are in trouble, too, because we are part of the natural world.

To save birds and to preserve the planet we must first heal ourselves, because as intolerance and selfishness demonstrate every day, humanity is in trouble with itself. We can begin to save ourselves by realizing that our fate is inextricably linked to that of the natural world. We can begin to heal our natural environment by relearning cooperation, mutual respect, and generosity of spirit—virtues which will reinforce our intimate and infinite ties to Mother Nature. Rescuing Nature while redeeming ourselves is largely a matter of changing attitudes.

Unfortunately, the pace and focus of modern life work against an awareness of the natural world, and our attitudes toward it. In our predominantly urban culture, we are stimulated by a nonstop media, we are flooded with information from the Internet, but increasingly we connect to Nature and to each other through our isolated computer stations, iPods, cell phones, Facebook, or Twitter. We are overlooking the life-altering rewards that accompany openhearted encounters with Nature.

But if you are willing to give Mother Nature a chance, you will find her a brilliant teacher and the most powerful advocate. She recruited me to her cause through direct encounters. I encourage you to do your own noticing, so that you, too, will enlist in the cause of saving birds and Nature and ourselves.

Excerpted with permission from The Ties that Bind: Birds, Nature, and Us (AuthorHouse), © 2010 Mike F. Foster.

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