What is it about birds, anyway? In truth, I never gave any bird much thought until I spent time in Vancouver. While there, I encountered not only the crow, but also two eagle sightings, two eagles that appeared to me at meaningful moments, as if in a dream. I have since looked up to the skies more often, in wonder and curiosity over any bird in flight above me. What can we learn from these creatures whose DNA is as ancient as the dinosaurs?
Thinking of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I recognize that the absence of bird song is a kind of unintended message, one that alerts us to — if we take the time to listen and consider — the impact of increasing urbanization on the ecology of birds. It is somehow so easy to forget the sound of birds when their absence is all we have. It is only when we step out of our urban centres and venture into a forest or a park that we might find our attention more closely attuned to other, non-industrial sounds, and finally hear the cries and songs of birds.
Since I recently moved out of the downtown core and into an older suburb, I hear many more birds, as there are many more trees. It is always my pleasure and joy to awake in the morning to the sound of singing birds, especially in springtime. The sound of birdsong in the morning awakens in me a primordial sensation; the birds’ calls to each other across the landscape seem an ethereal language, beyond time. It is near-impossible for me to pick out the songs of individual species, though I will never forget the sound of that one cry, the shrieking “caw!” at me on that misty day. Yet now that I am back in the ‘big city’ while their numbers are increasing with urban populations, the crow remains elusive to me — rarely, if ever, heard or seen.