Thursday, December 01, 2011

homeschool daybook: murmurations, tinker creek and tree of life

November 18, 2011

Oops...missed posting this before Thanksgiving.  The video is gorgeous and we enjoyed it so much I'm posting it now anyway.  For science, Natalie was biospace -- the ecological niches of living things.  The way animals and plant life use land, air, water, each other to live.  I'd just seen this video and done the research on starling murmurations, which I'd never heard of prior.  

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

For more detail behind the extraordinary flight behavior of these otherwise ordinary creatures, read this brief article (and watch the video).  This was one of those school activities that moved us all out of the realm of "mom's making us learn now" into real interest.  And as one of those days when all four of the kids were in the house smack dab in the middle of the day, everyone took their turn watching.

Then, as the practice of seeing produces sight, I began noticing the flocking and flight patterns of birds everywhere -- in the yard, at the park, in the books we were reading and movies we were watching.
  • In the movie, Tree of Life, I watched finally with my sons, husband and sister-in-law over Thanksgiving.  Of all the glorious cinematography, I might have missed the brief scene of a sky full of birds.  I'm not certain it was murmurating starlings, but it was pretty close.
  • I noticed this picture my blogging friend added to her post (and I'm double-crossing my fingers that she doesn't mind me posting it here as its the middle of the night when I've gotten 'round to putting up this post and the photo is too perfect to skip. Go visit her and say thank you for me, will you?).
photo credit:  Jodi @ Curious Acorn

  • And I remembered the chapter on Seeing we'd read in  A Pilgrim At Tinker Creek:
  • "Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven, the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These disappearances stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, ... For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket: I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again. I walked closer and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or, it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red-winged blackbirds; they flew from the tree, caught my eye in the sky, and vanished. When I looked again at the tree the leaves had reassembled as if nothing had happened. Finally I walked directly to the trunk of the tree and a final hundred, the real diehards, appeared, spread, and vanished. How could so many hide in the tree without my seeing them? The Osage orange, unruffled, looked just as it had looked from the house, when three hundred red-winged blackbirds cried from its crown. I looked downstream where they flew, and they were gone.  Searching, I couldn't spot one. I wandered downstream to force them to play their hand, but they'd crossed the creek and scattered. One show to a customer. These appearances catch at my throat; they are the free gifts, the bright coppers at the roots of trees." (Bolded font added by me.)

    Every common bush afire... 

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