Empathy

As you probably know, I normally just post about  birds on my blog and on social media.

My aim is to share my love for ravens, crows, and other birds — but I also hope to convey, through my portraits, a feeling of empathy.

I like to think that the feeling of kinship with another species will spill over into similar feeling for our fellow humans, however different their life experiences may be from our own.

Yesterday I stuck my head over the social media parapet to express how sad and worried I feel about some of the things happening as part of the “Freedom Convoy” currently demonstrating in Ottawa.

Many people felt the same, but others disagreed heartily. One commenter felt it was inappropriate for me to express my political views on my Facebook page.

I do generally try to stay away from politics, trying mostly to share the beauty and humour I see in my subject matter, and give people a respite from the more stressful areas of social media.

However, sometimes it feels that just posting pretty pictures of birds is not enough.

I feel a real connection with the birds I photograph and — I hope it goes without saying — with my fellow humans, many of whom have had a very rough time through Covid.

What makes me so sad and worried about the “Freedom Convoy” is that is has gotten very far away from a protest by some truck drivers angered by a new cross-border vaccine mandate affecting their industry. It has been co-opted to a large extent by groups with far more extreme goals and intimidating tactics.

It’s important that we feel empathy for truck drivers who have been working hard to keep us all supplied with the things we need through some very tough times — but it’s equally important to feel the same sympathy for: 

  • the exhausted and often abused nurses and doctors working through the pandemic
  • the front line workers forced to confront angry people as they go about their often low paying service jobs
  • the teachers and school staff struggling to provide children with some sense of normalcy and to keep everyone safe at the same time
  • people with underlying health conditions (and their caregivers) whose lives are far more affected by Covid than most of us
  • those in Ottawa unable to get around, or get sufficient sleep, due to the ongoing disruptions there
  • people who have been intimidated by some elements among the demonstrators
  • those who feel indirectly, but realistically, threatened by the very presence of swastikas, Confederate flags and Pure Blood t-shirts on blatant display
  • journalists who have been trolled in threatening ways on social media and in real life for doing their jobs

The list could go on …

I lead a pretty privileged life, and I’m chilled to the bone by what I’ve seen and read over the last few days, so I can only imagine how those in the direct far-right line of fire must feel seeing these things.

So, I just felt I had to say something yesterday.  And again today.

I had to say THIS IS NOT OK, just in case, by my silence, anyone might think I believe that all is well as long as we just gaze at lovely birds. 

I believe a huge majority of people in Canada are far from OK with it and that we need to say so, even if it’s not what we usually do.

Respectfully, if you find this post too political I will be fine if you decide you don’t want to follow my blog or posts any more — or you can just stay tuned for more crows and ravens and empathy.

So here we go, resuming normal programming with some pictures of ravens — some in fog and some in sunshine. 

I hope you see in them beauty and kinship. 

The Jon Snow of Ravens

Domestic moments with ravens
A face in the fog
When the morning sun catches the corner of your raven kilt …
Raven profile in sunshine This raven has his own dedicated team of feather polishers. Up at the crack of dawn each day, they shine each individual feather for maximum sparkle.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Cat of Insomnia

Just a quiet Sunday post about Edgar, the Cat of Insomnia.

I know there are many fellow insomniacs out there, and some aren’t lucky enough to have such a fine  sleeplessness companion. This is why I thought I’d share Edgar’s COI technique and, in so doing, offer some vicarious benefits.

After lying awake for hours … tossing, turning, examining each individual worry in my mind like a precious stone, viewing it from every angle so it can catch the light of  generalized anxiety and generally creating my own breathtaking, heart thumping prism of consternation … well, then I usually just give up and get out of bed.

While this marks another defeat in the “sleep hygiene” wars, there is consolation in knowing that the Maître d’Insomie awaits.

While Edgar is pretty quiet during the daytime, he comes into his own in the wee hours. As soon as any sleepless human staggers into the living room he starts purring and begins his important work.

Reading or knitting is discouraged by the COI (via gentle paw taps) as such things distract from full appreciation of the artistry at work here.

The best way to enjoy the service is to just sit there and breathe in and out (in and out, in and out …) with the purring.

Become one with the cat, as it were.

The slight downside is that, as you can well imagine, it’s hard to disturb the artiste when he’s in the creative flow, so I often end up staying up an hour or more longer that truly necessary.

I like to think that sitting with Edgar like this is almost as restful as actually being asleep as the various worries dull their sharp edges and fade into relative obscurity.

zzzzzzz …….

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Crows to the Rescue

The peace of wild things has been so very much needed over the past weeks and months. Years.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It can be hard to chisel those precious nuggets of joy from the daunting and somewhat featureless rock face of pandemic living —and there’s certainly no shortage of  things to wake us, clammy and panic stricken, in the night. In those sleepless hours, poetry and quiet prose is a wonderful solace (along with a cat on the lap, some medium-complicated knitting and a cup of Ovaltine.)

Going to lie down where the wood drake rests, however,  remains less of an option for us city dwellers.

Luckily, nature is really is everywhere — even in the the cacophonous concrete city.

It’s so easy to miss it all among all the stresses and distractions of urban life —but this is where the crow rescue squad can help. Just pay them a little attention, and they will drag your attention (kicking and screaming, if necessary) to the Peace of Wild Things. Dammit.


Crows are wild things, but something … something … about them —  their tight family units, that look in the eye, that tilt of the head — makes them feel like quite close relations.

It really doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch (trust me) to start having conversations with them.

Hey, Mabel — how’s the family? Got one of the kids home visiting I see.

Any sign of spring out there, Marvin and Mavis?

Again, I ask myself quietly, am I spending too much time with birds … ?

And I conclude: not possible. I’d happily spend a lot MORE time with birds!

In fact, every time a see any bird — crow, sparrow, hawk or bushtit, I feel a thrill.

Perhaps it’s because where I grew up, on the Quayside of the industrial Tyne River in Newcastle in  50’s and 60’s Britain, the only birds I saw were rooftop pigeons and distant gulls. (See: Birth Of An Urban Nature Enthusiast)

It seemed to me then that things like birds and trees and squirrels and grass were just for rich people — so that’s what makes spending time with crows and all the other birds lurking in my part of the city, feel like such luxury.

And why it feels as if having a crow rescue committee for darker days is wealth beyond compare, even if I don’t have anywhere to lie down with them.
Probably not such a good idea in any case, when it comes to crows …

I’ve looked at life from both sides now …

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bushtits To The Rescue

Group of bushtits sheltering from rain on a metal rack with flowers

Well, it turns out that one of the lesser known symptoms of COVID is the complete and utter inability to write blog posts. 

Like many others, we had a rather Omicrummy Christmas as the virus raced through our household, and although triple-vaxxed, we were laid low for a couple of weeks.

Fortunately it’s been mainly just medium horrible cold and flu symptoms, overlaid with exhaustion and the need for many naps and lots of Advil.

Every day I’ve thought “must write a blog post’” . . . and every day I’ve taken the alternative route of  flopping in my comfy chair and watching hours of TV.  Even daytime TV was not off limits! Some desultory knitting or needle felting was completed in between naps.

Throughout this period there was a tiny, slightly more active, part of my brain just itching to write a blog post. Whenever I did get outside to walk the dog, or just stand in my dressing gown in the garden, there was bird inspiration everywhere — just begging to be shared.

It seems, however, that the COVID brain cannot process inspiration.

Also, complete sentences seemed like just . . . so . . . much . . . w — o — r — k

Yesterday, however, the bushtits decided enough was enough. A committee came, literally,  to my back door to FORCE me to write about them.

In case you’re not familiar with these characters, bushtits are tiny, grey, determined and objectively adorable birds. See my previous post Consider the Bushtit for just some of the reasons why.

During the very cold weather we had over the holidays they came to the garden many times a day to visit the suet feeder.

I did manage to write a few short social media posts while I was sick and one of them was about the bushtits …

Single female bushtit on a branch

The rare sight of a lone bushtit. 

They travel in close knit chattering charabanc tours of 20-30. The rest of the tour group was close by. I always wonder if one of them is the Rick Steves of the gang, pointing out the local attractions. “On our left we have the famous suet feeder — but be sure to step out of your comfort zone and try the exotic delights of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t miss the bugs up there on the maple. OK, time’s up … on to the next step on the tour … no laggards please.”

It is just possible that I am spending too much time with birds … 🤪

Of course, as many of you wisely pointed out, it is impossible to spend too much time with birds!

And here’s a photo of the tour group having a refreshment break at the hummingbird feeder.

Flock of bushtits at hummingbird feeder

Bottoms up!

Incidentally, I’d been wondering for a while why I kept losing the little yellow nectar covers on the hummingbird feeders until I noticed them lying in the snow after the bushtits had been by. How did they get them off? Again, see Consider the Bushtit to see how cleverly they can use their tiny claws.

So what could these birds have done yesterday that was even cuter and cleverer than all of this?

For context, the weeks of snow and icy slush have been replaced this week by yet another Atmospheric River, bringing relentless rain and grey skies. Not much inspiring to look at outside, but I just happened to glance outside of my back door window and did a double take. It looked like a scene from the old Cinderella cartoon of my childhood …

This is only a small portion of the whole group. By the time I got my phone out to video them, about two thirds of the crowd had moved on, but you can see that they were making themselves very cosy under our deck, taking advantage of the heated hummingbird feeder and  arranging themselves on the big floral metal shelf as if it were a specially designed bushtit drying rack.

Snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain on a heated hummingbird feede

Pair of sleeping bushtits sheltering from rain on a floral rack under a deck

Bushtits drying out, and apparently napping.

As you can see, this was already too amazing not to write about, but there was more!

Check out the couple snuggling together in the next video. They were pressed so tightly together, and for so long, I worried that they’d got sugar water on themselves from the hummingbird feeder and become stuck!

Sorry the video and pictures aren’t the best quality. I was filming sometimes through the window and the shadow in some of the video is the door, open just a crack to stick a lens out.

While the whole group was heart stoppingly cute, this particular couple took the cake. This is one of the chief joys of watching birds. You may think you’ve seen all the amazing things about them.

But you never have!

Very cute snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain

The delicacy of their tiny, wet, translucent, slightly bedraggled tails …

I’m not sure if they are actually shivering here, as the weather was much milder than it’s been, or if it was part of their feather drying technique. Or perhaps they were just so excited to be together …

I imagine that the bushtit delegation was sent by the other birds to overcome my inertia by dint of sheer cuteness. Now that I’ve actually found where my keyboard is again, I hope I’ll be able to make some new posts about some of the other amazing birds that stopped by over the last couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for what new and amazing things the bushtits have up their tiny feathery sleeves.

Snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain on a metal rack with flowers

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.