For the Birds

28 March 2011

I will have lots more to say about Zambia, including (Si Dios Quiere), videos, but for now let me break the Big News: I have a new favorite bird!

Me and birds go way back. I mean, we got history. It began in 1957 at Camp Chewonki, up in Maine, where I became friends with Lee Peterson, one of Roger Tory Peterson’s sons. Roger, as all good ornithologists and amateur birders will know, wrote the seminal “Field Guide to the Birds” which started it all. I also, will have you know, met Rachel Carson at Chewonki, author of “Silent Spring” which broke the news that our favorite bug repellent, DDT, was destroying the shells of the song birds, forever changing the face of the poison business. Chewonki taught me to love the Great Outdoors, and birds in particular. Years later, I would impress the shit out of the female Governor of New Hampshire when I replicated the call of the Brown capped Chicadee (southern accent: chic-chic-chi-day-day-day vs. dee-dee-dee).

Anyway, it is the Open Beak Stork, and it inhabits the environs of the Zambezi River, around Victoria Falls. Like many birds, it’s ungainly except in flight, when it turns into something of surpassing beauty: its elongated body stretched out over the water, beak lips slightly parted as if savoring the aftermath of… ice cream sundae?……and following a shallow up-and- down glide path, less accentuated than the cedar waxwing or phoebe.
The warblers that used to fill the Maine woods when I was a kid are mostly gone now (well, the ones I saw are ALL gone, but so are their heirs), wiped out when the rainforests of Central and South America were felled by lumber companies or burned to the ground by slash and burn peasant farmers. Because, you see, those birds had such incredible navigation systems that they returned to the exact same square kilometer of rainforest each year during their annual migration, and if it wasn’t there anymore…… You get the idea.

Another thing that appeals to me about birds is that they are the descendants of the once gigantic dinosaurs. You can certainly see this in the larger ones, like the Blue Heron, who, when it flies, is reminiscent of the Pteradactyl. (Okay, so I wasn’t there, but I saw “The Land Before Time” with my kids – several hundred times) Interesting how Mother Nature turned these once destructive, terrifying creatures into small, harmless little birds. Perhaps, one day, the descendants of Rush and Sarah will be only 3 inches high?

Some of my proudest literary moments I owe to da boids. Like my description of the flight of a pelican: “…their preposterous, bag-beaked bodies become in flight something elegant.” Or, when I earned the admiration of a Viking editor, when I was just starting out, with my description of a Guatemalan woman walking to market with a turkey tucked under each arm “like living bagpipes.”
Guess you had to be there.

Meanwhile, any day now, the book stork will arrive carrying my new arrival: The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook. Cigar, anyone?

Rupert Scofield


Share this blog post:

Popular posts

3 March 2011

I have the solution, and I got the idea from the financial services industry. It’s…

28 February 2011

I saw “Black Swan” over the holidays and, for the record, this was the email…