Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm Supposed to be an Ornithologist

So much to do. So many fires to put out. Letters of recommendation to write. Scholarship applications to check out. The giant lab cleanout—which I’m only barely helping with—begins to take up some of my time. Preparing for the two summer field classes. Preparing the advertisement for the two positions we’re going to have in the department. Writing lectures for my Biogeography class. Sometimes I don’t remember the real reason I got into biology.

But this morning I got a reminder. I got to the office a little after seven. The building was surrounded by, and covered with, birds. Of course, the bluebirds that are always there were flying around the center yard. Juncos, getting darker with new plumage, flitted around the steps and darted out of my way as I moved down the walk. Yellow-rumped warblers fed in the grass. Starlings whistled on the wires overhead. House sparrows chattered under the eaves of the building. Fish crows taunted me. And the ubiquitous robins hopped across the lawn, and scolded me when I got too close.

The campus is always incredibly birdy. The cow pasture adjacent to the parking lot always has black and turkey vultures, grackles, red-wings, and meadowlarks, along with a complement of Canada geese. In the summer, there are cattle egrets. The bird feeders next to the museum attract goldfinches and chickadees. There are always mourning doves and pigeons, and the last couple of years we’ve had collared doves. The oak trees on the other side of the building attract cedar waxwings in the winter, and red-headed, red-bellied, and downy woodpeckers all year long. The pond next to the administration building usually has a couple of mallards on it, and two years ago, two black swans appeared out of nowhere and stayed for two days. Killdeer work the lawn around the Music building, and last year a red-tailed hawk spent the fall chasing gray squirrels. The day before Thanksgiving two years ago, I watched a bald eagle sail over campus.

In a couple of weeks, the barn swallows will be back, building nests on the eaves outside my office window. The bluebirds will be nesting in the center yard. They were singing this morning. The words to the song: “Get some perspective.”


catnapping said...

oooh. i happen to know a couple of ornithologists.

Professor Ken Dial taught me all about DNA and mRNA, and Denver Holt is a good friend of mine - we used to be neighbors. He used to let me strain owl poop with him.

Birds are some of my favorite people...

Archaeopteryx said...

I don't know either of those guys, but didn't Ken Dial used to have a show on Animal Planet? A pretty good one as I remember.

Catnapping said...

Ya mean y'all don't know each other?

Yep. He sure did. And he is just like that in real life. Many of the students had crushes on him...

hipparchia said...

what a lovely paean to spring! thanks.

i wonder if the swans were taking the weekend off from work [they have some living in alabama though the website doesn't mention them].

seqrzq: sequestered query zones
htscrh: have to scratch

Archaeopteryx said...

C: The Montana ornithology program is quite well-respected. You learned birds from some of the best.

H: I just assumed the swans had flown all the way from Australia to southeast Arkansas. I guess Montgomery makes better sense.

Keifus said...

I'm supposed to be an engineer/chemist/ materials guy/somethingorother. I suppose I get excited on occasion thinking on how things all go together, but I've never ever found career inspiration by looking out the window. (I'm a little jealous.)