Saturday, April 23, 2011
Photo by Marilyn Patterson
"A Mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark Never Failing."
The woods I stood along side of seemed full of promise. Each square inch of understory appeared to creep with life; the life found only in those who wear feathers. My winged friends, however, elected to remain hidden from sight, only betraying their existence with auditory clues. Tiny "sips" and "cheeps" alerted me to their presence, but this morning that would not suffice; I must see these beauties.
Thankfully, a birder is not left alone when dealing with uncooperative avi-fauna. Birders have a tool, an aid that can make birds visualize from thin air. This magic wand is called "pishing": a sound that imitates angry Tufted Timice. The usefulness of pishing is not obvious to most people; making sounds at a tree or bush does not appear to be the height of productivity. People have the luxury of ignoring the sounds of riled Tutmice. Birds do not.
Birds know that Titmice and Chickadees are pitbulls with wings. Whenever any type of danger approaches, these gray and white guardians faithfully spring into action. The whole forest will resound with "pishes," and any bird worth its salt will come to survey the situation; see what the danger is this time.
And so, by imitating Titmice and Chickadees, a birder can easily pique the interest of other species of birds. What starts out as a few soloists voicing their protests may soon become a whole choir, calling with unified umbrage.
Pishing: the reason I was making noise at a bush.
There! Movement! In the corner of my eye, the life I came here for. Pishing pulls through again.
The bird is a Hermit Thrush. A small, brown bird with a rusty tail and bold black belly spots, this unassuming bird is a common winter visitor in Southern New Jersey. Understated in just about every way, he lets you know he's near by a soft "chyk" and his distinctive motion of dropping his wings.
Subdued yes; stupid, no. For my Hermit Thrush did what any thinking bird would at a sign of danger, he went to the forest fortress: a green-briar bush.
Green-briar goes by a number of colloquial names: sticker bush, cat-paw, evil, etc. It is the classic thorn bearing shrub, and it is unforgiving. I encountered green-briar on my first birding experience, a wall of it, in fact. I emerged from that natural edifice looking like a character from a Wes Craven film, and have since learned to keep away from those ominous thorns.
But my friend the thrush learned to run to them. He freely and happily jumped into the midst of the bush. Pausing for a moment, he assesed the danger, and relaxed. He wasn't losing control; in fact, he had the freedom to look around, knowing his suuroundings were the securest place possible. He was safe from the dangers that I was alerting him to.
"The Lord is my light and my Salvation, why should I be afraid; The Lord is my Fortress, protecting me from danger, why should I tremble."
The world is continually sending out an alarm call. Its message is a cacophany of worry, despair and fear. We must respond with a soft "God is still on His throne; I am in Him." When the "wolves in sheeps clothing" come, we must rest in the Truth, for that is never shaken. When the darkness comes, we must remind it that it can never hurt us, for we are people of the light.
We must ever be learning just how might a fortress our God is.