Bird Week: Tweet Spring! Celebrating Seattle’s Birds

The Seattle Public Library is partnering with the Seward Park Audubon Center for Bird Week, April 23-30, in celebration of the center’s tenth anniversary and the National Audubon Society’s 2018 Year of the Bird.

From the oldest of worlds into the new they flew, heralding dawn, signaling coming night, solitary, in flocks they arrived. Seed carriers, twig bearers, architects of nests.  Water gliders and earth diggers defended territory, courted, raised young, migrated, created shelter and survived. They flitted by the Xachua’bsh (hah-chu-AHBSH) (the Lake People) when the peninsula known as Seward Park was called skEba’kst, a word meaning nose in Lushootseed.

The forested nose of land grew names that clung tightly as vines. Climbing time, each name grasped its moment until the next twist of fate. Graham Peninsula (1863) turned into Bailey Peninsula (1890). Eagles nested atop old growth trees, in 1903, when the Olmsted Brothers proposed that the City of Seattle include the peninsula in its creation of a comprehensive park system and, so, Seward Park (1911) took hold. Over 100 species of birds have been sighted in and around the Magnificent Forest that is primary residence, part of the Pacific Flyway and, for some, a seasonal home.  They hop under our noses, swoop over our heads and, in seconds, wing out and away.

Worlds away from this day, an 18th century boy was entranced by the extraordinary presence of “birds of richest feathering.” His early efforts to draw the natural world were encouraged, especially by his father. By the 19th century the boy, with a new name, became immigrant, merchant, slaveholder, hunter, teacher, taxidermist and itinerant artist. By a circuitous route, John James Audubon began to build his life’s work on the study of birds, their habits, anatomy, and terrestrial habitats, thus enabling him to compile a body of work revolutionizing prevailing methods and ideas of ornithology.

Utilizing European, Shawnee and Osage hunting methods, Audubon catalogued, wrote, drew, painted and killed many a specimen in order to depict birds as lifelike as possible. From the plantation south to the north, east and west, Audubon journeyed, on foot, by river, far and wide. He crossed paths with runaway slaves, was eye witness to the ravages of smallpox upon Indian tribes.  Overhead, doves, hawks, multitudes, in every tree a chirp or call sounded while the chronicler perfected his portrait of the avian world. The result of his labors is the masterwork, The Birds of America.  Discover in Birdland: The America of Audubon a resource list the sights and sounds of birds centuries past.

In time, the woodsman began to note their diminishing numbers, how the destruction of habitat made way for farms and towns. Others, too, alarmed at the crass killing of animals for sport and fashion, were stirred to action.

Responding to the mass slaughter of birds, the National Audubon Society was formed, in 1905, with a mandate of conservation and advocacy for wildlife and the environment. 2018 is the Society’s Year of the Bird  and the Seward Park Audubon Society’s 10th anniversary.

We share this world with birds. Bird Week is an opportunity to learn about birds and the important role they play in our lives.  We, also, have a role, as global citizens, in preserving and protecting the environment for generations to come. Check out Shelf Talk for each day’s blog post and resource list featuring useful and fun information and activities about birds. Spring has sprung! From backyard to boulevard, treetop to fencepost the feathered fly low and high! How tweet it is!

~posted by Chris

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