“All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.”
— William Shakespeare

Yellow warbler

This yellow warbler flew into the glass windows on the library’s patio deck, and it died.  One of my colleagues brought it inside, hoping that it was just stunned and would revive.  But it was truly dead.

All sudden death is shocking.

Yellow warbler in death

Yellow warbler

Detail of wing and feathers

I happened to be reading a book by a licensed bird rehabilitator — The Bluebird Effect:  Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds by Julie Zickefoose.  The book is filled with stories about encounters with birds that came into Zick’s life and home during their convalescences.  She remarked on the special difficulty of working with songbirds that need feeding frequently — nestlings need to be fed every 20 to 45 minutes, from dawn to dusk!  Had the warbler survived, but with broken bones, it would have required some labor-intensive care.

The Bluebird Effect is written by a bird rehabilitator

I loved Zickefoose’s watercolors and pencil sketches of birds.

Hummingbird in the crocosmia

by Sharon Lovejoy, from Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots

A hummingbird flew past today,
circled my garden and decided to stay.
Its tiny wings made a funny sound,
like zippers going up and down.
It dipped and dived among the plants,
and snacked on spiders, gnats, and ants.
And all day long, for flying power,
it sipped the nectar tucked in flowers.

What a treat to see a hummingbird feeding in the crocosmia!

Crocosmia in bloom

Here comes a hummer!

Hummingbird with blurred wings

Sipping nectar

Hovering hummingbird

Hummingbird in the crocosmia

Watercolor sketch of crocosmia

Another watercolor sketch of crocosmia

Hummingbird enjoying the year's first blossoms

I was enjoying the beauty of the first tree blossoms against a blue sky when I noticed a tiny hummingbird flitting from flower to flower.  I love how poets describe hummingbirds: 

  • “Thou insect bird!  Thou plumed bee!”  — Royall Tyler, “Ode to the Hummingbird”
  • “Enchanted thing,”  “Darling sprite”  — Jess Campbell Rae, “Hummingbird”
  • “Bright whirligig” — Cyrus Curtis III Cassells, “The Hummingbird”
  • “A flash of harmless lightening, A mist of rainbow dyes,” — John Banister Tabb, “The Hummingbird”
  • “A pure vibration” — Arnold Craig, “You Are the Hummingbird That Comes”

The Humming-bird
by Emily Dickinson

A route of evanescence
With a revolving wheel;
A resonance of emerald,
A rush of cochineal;
And every blossom on the bush
Adjusts its tumbled head, —
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy morning’s ride.

Hummingbird eyeing blossom

Bright whirligig

Plumed bee

A pure vibration

And then the hummingbird flitted away, and I was left to gaze at "just" blossoms.

Wings Pressed in Prayer

August 7, 2010

Butterfly at rest in Ben's wildflower patch

Yellow butterfly

After reading the following poem by Ted Kooser, I cannot see folded butterfly wings without thinking of praying hands:

Praying Hands
by Ted Kooser

There is at least one pair
In every thrift shop in America,
Molded in plastic or plaster of paris
And glued to a plaque,
or printed in church pamphlet colors
and framed under glass.
Today I saw a pair made out of
lightweight wire stretched over a pattern
of finishing nails.
This is the way faith goes
from door to door,
cast out of one and welcomed at another.
A butterfly presses its wings like that
as it rests between flowers.