One thing you learn when you draw birds: you’ve never reallyseen them previously. How different each one is. I thought I knew the birds on the deck — I can even distinguish a few from each other. But I recognise them by their behaviours, not how they look.
Now? I am seeing their differences… Their fat round winter-puffed bellies, the tilt of a head, the way a woodpecker darts at the birds to either side of her perch. It reminds me, all over again, that nothing is simple. And everything is connected…
There’s one woodpecker I know by both behaviour and looks: it’s the young male from this spring. He’s not very bright — hence the ‘behaviour’ recognition. One of his favourite pursuits is pecking at the post the seed cylinder hangs from. (I told you he wasn’t too bright…) But he’s also less brightly coloured, even though a male. He has the tell-tale red blotch on the back of his head, but his black&white always looks a bit dull, as if he washed his clothes w/ something that faded grey onto them.
And there are fat sparrows (some may have done steroids!), lean sparrows, long-bellied sparrows and I haven’t even gotten to the blue jays, cardinals, finches, titmice…
There’s an entire family of cardinals, two seasons worth. Males & females & young males. I can even tell one of the young males from the others. The finches I’m still learning — they’re less individual and more a flock.
Each different. Each similar. And yes, I know I see metaphors everywhere. But it really does seem kind of like a Buddhist thing. You know what I mean?