Sunday, January 31, 2010


Spectacularly coloured, Bee-eaters become just blurs as They zip after Bees and Hornets. In hunting, They will perch where Bees often travel in search of pollen. Spying their prey, Bee-eaters take off and promptly seize the Bee in mid-air. After taking their prize back to their perch, Bee-eaters will bash the Bee’s head against the wood. Then They will rub the Bee’s abdomen to discharge the venom before eating the dead Insect.

The Bee-eater Family is divided into three groups. The largest group is the Meropidae, who are found throughout the Old World. The Nyctyornis Group, which only lives in Asia, consists of Red-bearded Bee-eater and Blue-bearded Bee-eater. Unlike the Meropidae, these Birds hunt alone, and are not as gregarious. Meanwhile Purple-bearded (Celebes) Bee-eater, who only lives on the island of Sulawesi, is the sole member of the Meropogon group.

Many people welcome the sight of these Birds. For example, known as “Rainbow Bird” in Australia, Rainbow Bee-eater heralds the coming of spring with his bright colours. These glistening Jewels of the Sun paint the sky with grace and beauty. Bee-eaters of all kinds bring grace and beauty to gladden the hearts of those who see Them.

Friday, January 22, 2010



Well known for their songs, New World Warblers are small Birds with thin legs. In constant motion, these colourful Birds delight bird watchers everywhere. New World Warblers are in their own family, and not related to either the Eurasian or Australian Warblers.

The Oven Bird” by Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would sing and be as other birds,
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
is what to make of a diminished thing.

OVENBIRD: The Ebb and Flow of Time

The subject of Robert Frost’s poem, Ovenbird is a small olive-brown Bird with a crown of orange feathers. During the summer, He chants “tea-cher, TEA-cher”. Often heard, Ovenbird is not usually seen. Meanwhile, Female Ovenbird makes a nest on the ground. Because her snug nest resembles a Dutch oven, She and her mate came be called, “Ovenbird”.

Ovenbird helps to attune us to the seasons. In the Northern United States, He appears in May heralding the warmer weather. Come fall, Ovenbird leaves for warmer regions. However He will return in the spring. Follow the seasons with Ovenbird as your guide. Feel the ebb and flow of time as Robert Frost notes in his poem.

Science Notes:

1. Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) is a member of the Family of New World Warblers (Parulidae), and is not the same bird as Rufous Ovenbird of the Furnariidae Family.

Thursday, January 21, 2010



One of the most diverse Families of Birds is the Ovenbird and Thornbird Family (Furnariidae). What They are all noted for is making elaborate and conspicuous nests. For example Rufous-fronted Thornbird (Phacellodomus rufifrons) constructs an elaborate multi-storey nest. Although this Thornbird only uses one “room”, the remainder are used by other lodgers such as non-related Thornbirds and other Birds.


Known as “El Hornero” in South America, Rufous Ovenbird builds his nest resembling an old-fashioned oven (hornero). Throughout South America, his distinctive nest can be found on fence posts and under roof eaves. Virtually indestructible, his baked mud nest is only vulnerable to constant rain over the years. After his Family fledges, He leaves the old nest, which then becomes a home for Insects and other Birds.

Building the nest takes both Rufous Ovenbird Parents eight months. Mixing straw and cow-dung, They build their nest on a tree branch. Then the hot South American sun bakes this nest rock hard. Meanwhile, inside the nest is a baffle wall that will keep out any prevailing winds. Also this wall deters any predator from reaching in and harming the Birds. Because the nest is so durable, the two Ovenbirds make no effort to conceal it.

Rufous Ovenbird builds his nest to last. Only rain, over time, will erode the nest. Until then, the abandoned nest becomes a home for other Animals. Learn from Rufous Ovenbird how to build a durable home for the ages.

Science Notes:
1. Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) is a member of the Family of New World Warblers (Parulidae), and is not the same bird as Rufous Ovenbird of the Furnariidae Family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Working with the Tarot: Daily Card

Working with the Tarot is not something that I do on a regular basis. However, when I do work with the Tarot, I much prefer the Thoth deck for its rich imagery. As a rule, the Rider-Waite deck does not speak to me at all.

However, for a week, I drew a daily card using the Rider-Waite deck. Because of my brain injury, I have no memory of the meanings. What I do now is to glean meaning from the pictures. To my surprise, I was “spot on” with the official interpretations.

The cards I drew in order were: 8 of Cups, The Hierophant, 7 of Cups, Knight of Pentacles, Ace of Cups, 6 of Swords, and The Lovers. Since the Major Arcana and Cups were the majority of the cards, I was dealing with deep emotional issues. But I am puzzled as to why the Wands were missing. Perhaps, physical issues were for me not as important during this time.

The daily reading did reflect what I experienced each day. Because I have no perception of time, I make daily notes to help my understanding of each day’s passage. Matching the cards to each day helped me to remember both the cards and the day. With this method, I could envision the passage of time.

The Eight of Cups came when I was feeling lonely. Because of my injury, I am often isolated. As this card indicated, I am on a journey to wellness. The next day, the Hierophant showed up when an old friend came to visit. I felt blessed by her visit. Next, the Seven of Cups demonstrated my brain’s problems. On that day, my brain had “short circuited” and could not focus. As reflected by the card, I had a day of cloudy thinking.

The following day, the Knight of Pentacles reassured me that things would be fine. I had a very boring, slow day which is precisely what I needed. The Knight in his stodginess depicted what I wanted for my brain.

The Ace of Cups arrived to let me know that I was loved. I do believe that my life “overflows with blessings” with my family and friends. Then, the Six of Swords reflected my need to move on. As the card indicated, I would eventually get there. Finally, the Lovers told me that I would be whole again.

Since I could relate each card to my day, I felt more familiar with them. I could glean meanings from the pictures more readily. A daily practice would probably increase my knowledge of the Tarot in general.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Elements and Animals (4)


Alligator (American): Water

Greatly feared because of her size and teeth, American Alligator is a shy animal. She prefers to live in her “gator hole” or mucking around the swamp. American Alligator is a keystone species. She creates “alligator holes”--mud hollows in swampy areas. This provides other animals with water, food, and homes. Moreover, American Alligator is the largest predator in her area, controlling overpopulation of deer and other animals. Even Her abandoned nest is used by other animals.

Salamander (Fire)

Tradition has it that Fire Salamander got her name from racing out of a log tossed onto a cooking fire. Since people saw her racing out of nowhere they assumed that the fire created her. “Salamander” comes from an Arab term for “lives in fire”.

Quite shy, Fire Salamander warns other animals and people away with bright yellow blotches on her black body. By secreting a white sticky substance called salamandrin from small pores on her body, she can kill a small animal or cause vomiting in a person. Instead of running away, Fire Salamander sprays her attacker. Her black and yellow colors warn others to leave her alone.

Newt (Great Crested): Water

The largest of the European newts, Great Crested Newt gets his name from his magnificent crown that he grows during breeding season. He wants to impress Female Great Crested Newts at their breeding pond. When a female shows interest, Great Crested Newt vibrates his tail and nuzzles her.

Because he is slow moving, Great Crested Newt will eat anything that he can catch. Usually, he eats animals slower than himself like slugs and snails. While underwater, he uses his sixth sense to detect vibrations in the water. To do this, Great Crested Newt uses a complex system of pressure-sensitive cells on his head and sides.


Echidna: Earth

This small, barrel-shaped animal is one of two of the world’s only egg-laying (Monotreme) mammals. Resembling a pale brown porcupine, Echidna lives a solitary life in woodlands. With her powerful claws, Echidna turns over rocks in search of food.
Echidna is quite good at defending herself. When in danger, she curls herself into a ball, to be protected by her spines. Sometimes, Echidna will wedge herself beneath rocks. She can also swiftly dig vertically to get below the surface soil.

Mother Echidna lies on her back and lays one egg. She stretches so that her egg drops into the pouch on her abdomen. After a week and a half, Baby Echidna (Puggle) breaks out of the egg’s leathery shell. The tiny Puggle will suckle and live in his mother’s pouch for two months. Afterwards, he leaves his mother’s pouch for a burrow that she has dug for him. There, Mother Echidna visits daily to suckle her Puggle.

Grey Squirrel: Air

Agile and alert, Grey Squirrel remains active throughout the year. Chattering on tree branches, Grey Squirrel amuses people who watch her antics. What people do not know is that Grey Squirrel was a creature of the virgin forests of North America. She is one of the few mammals who adapted to cities.

Grey Squirrel needs to eat every day even in the winter. Active at dawn, she searches for fruits and nuts or whatever is in season. In spring, she eats plant shoots. In winter, Grey Squirrel eats tree bark and nuts that she stored in the fall. She locates her stored nuts by smell. Any acorns that Grey Squirrel does not find will grow into trees for future squirrel homes.

Manatee: Water

It is hard to believe that sailors once mistook Manatee and her cousin Dugong for mermaids. These sole remaining members of the Sirenia family are more like small blimps than beautiful women. Also called “Sea Cows”, Manatee and Dugong are the only sea mammals that eat solely vegetation. One of the most endangered of sea mammals, Manatee keeps vital waterways such as the Amazon River basin free of vegetation by consuming large amounts of food.

Manatee favors muddy bays, lagoons, and estuaries of the places around Caribbean Sea and Western Africa. Manatee prowls the bottom using her sensitive mouth to detect delicious grasses. With her front flippers, she grasps the vegetation and munches to her heart's content. When Manatee is done munching, she walks on her flippers to find more food at the bottom.

Works used

Andrews, Ted, “Animal-Speak”, Llewellyn, St. Paul, 1998.

Attenborough, David, “The Life of Birds”, Princeton University, Princeton, 1998.
The Life of Mammals”, Princeton University, Princeton, 2002.
Life in the Undergrowth”, Princeton University, Princeton, 2005.
Life in Cold Blood”, Princeton University, Princeton, 2008.

Conway, D.J., “Animal Magick”, Llewellyn, St. Paul, 1999.

King, Scott Alexander, “Animal Messenger”, New Holland, Sydney, 2006.

Nozedar, Adele, “The Secret Language of Birds”, Harper Collins, London, 2006.

Palmer, Jessica Dawn, “Animal Wisdom”, Harper Collins, London, 2001.

Tucker, Suzetta. "ChristStory Bestiary." ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1997. ( 9 Jan. 2010).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Elements and Animals: Birds and Insects (3)


Hawk (Red-tailed): Air or Spirit

Air: A member of the Buteo family of “Soaring Hawks”, Red-Tailed Hawk is seen perched on treetops or utility poles. Spotting prey, she dives to grasp the animal in her talons. Hunting small mammals, Red-Tailed Hawk searches for voles, her favorite food. Although Red-Tailed Hawk prefers life in the uplands, she will live in cities. Wherever she lives, Red-Tailed Hawk builds her nest at the forest’s edge or in large trees surrounded by open areas.

Spirit: To the Pueblo Peoples, Red-Tailed Hawk was endowed with the same qualities as Eagle. Because she was a messenger of the Spirit, they called her “Red Eagle”. Through her flight, Red-Tailed Hawk communicated messages from the Great Mystery. In addition, she brought the rains and the waters necessary for life.

Hummingbird (Ruby-Throated): Fire

A native of the New World, Ruby-throated Hummingbird has enchanted all who have seen her. This tiny fast bird inspires wonder in those who watch her feed. Despite her small size, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird migrates from the eastern United States across the Gulf of Mexico to Central America. What makes this passage extraordinary is that Ruby-Throated Hummingbird does not eat on her journey. She stores up a layer of fat equal to half of her body weight.

The Aztecs of Mexico regarded Ruby-throated Hummingbird as a warrior. Despite Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s delicate appearance, she is a bold, quarrelsome bird who will readily attack any intruder that strays into her territory. With the frenzied beating of her wings, Ruby-throated Hummingbird will defend herself with her long beak.

Quail (Old World): Fire

Thought of as stout little birds, Old Word Quails are remarkable for their hardiness. When Old Word Quails are cold, they form star-shaped bevies (flocks) to receive warmth from each other. In addition, these short legged birds with round heads, will often post sentries to watch for intruders. Their plumage provides such excellent camouflage that rarely does anyone notice them until they call “wet-my-lips” or “whit-whit’tit”. (Because Old Word Quails’ calls are so distinctive, some cuckoo clocks have them sound on the quarter hours.)

Surprisingly, Old Word Quails are well-regarded in many cultures. For the Chinese, Old Word Quails were the Fire Phoenix of Spring and Summer. Among the Hindus, these birds represented the returning Sun. Furthermore, these unassuming birds were also the emblem of the Russian Tsars.

(Note: Old World Quails belong to the Pheasant Family, while New World Quails are in their own Family. They are only distantly related, and are not the same species.)

Raven: Fire or Water

Water: Raven is known for shape shifting, which Crow cannot do. More secretive than Crow, Raven is also associated with the night and dark magic. Since she is bigger and stronger than Crow, Raven’s magic is more profound. (Night and the moon are often associated with the element of water.)

Fire: Among early Christians, Raven was a messenger sent by God to feed the saints in the wilderness. Among the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, Raven was the Great Trickster. She created human beings, and brought fire to them. Meanwhile in China, Three-legged Raven lived in the sun, representing the sun’s three phases – dawn, noon, and dusk.


Dragonfly Family: Water or Air

Water: Dragonflies flit on the surface of small ponds and slow creeks. Their gossamer wings glisten in the dappled sunlight. Colorful and delicate-looking, Dragonflies inspire awe in everyone who sees them.

Air: Dragonflies were one of the first flying creatures to evolve, about three hundred million years ago. They have remained mostly unchanged during all this time. Although they are the most primitive of winged insects, Dragonflies are the most efficient fliers. Their wings move independently allowing the Dragonflies to stop in midair, change directions, and fly backwards. Very few birds can out-fly or hunt down Dragonflies.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MOUSEBIRD (COLY) FAMILY: Be the Life of the Party

Running through the trees, Mousebirds move more like Rodents than Birds. From this activity, these gregarious Birds, with their grey fur-like feathers, received their name “Mousebird”. Considered to be “living fossils” by many, They are found only in the African Tropics.

Unrelated to any other Bird, Mousebirds are divided into two groups, within the Family. The Colies (Colius group) creep through the vegetation with their heads held low. Resembling Mice in trees, They run and climb over tree branches. The other group, the Uroclius, are stronger fliers. Their skeletons differ from the Colies. However, both groups eat a lot of fruit.

One owner of Mousebirds describes Them as “quirky but cute”. Gregarious and lively, Mousebirds enjoy dust parties and sunbathing. Curious about everything, these dull grey Birds investigate everything. Quite acrobatic, Mousebirds will feed upside down like Bats. However, They will often land by crashing head first into plants.

By their very nature, Mousebirds are the life of any party. At first glance, They may seem unprepossessing and dull. But these noisy happy Birds will liven up any gathering. Let Mousebirds show you how to enjoy yourself at social gatherings. (Just try not to crash into any plants.)
Picture copyright of South Africa National Parks

Friday, January 15, 2010

BOWERBIRD FAMILY: Architecture Does Matter

Best known for building elaborate bowers for mating, Bowerbirds have fascinated humans curious about how such an ordinary Bird could be so creative. Depending on their particular species, Male Bowerbirds build different types of bowers (AKA bachelor pads) to entice Female Bowerbirds to come in for mating. The more ornate Bowerbirds build simpler structures while the less colorful Birds construct more elaborate bowers.

The “Stagemaker” Bowerbirds set the stage by the simplest means. They clear out a section of ground, and then festoon the area with colourful leaves and flowers. Like the other Bowerbirds, They constantly tend the area, replacing wilted flowers with fresh ones.

The “Gardeners” (AKA “Maypole builders”) lay their twigs around a base of a tree. They pile up twigs in a circular runway with an inner and outer wall. After clearing an open space in the front of the structure, these Bowerbirds proudly display their shells, stones, and other prizes that They have collected.
The most elaborate of structures are those erected by the “Avenue Builders”. They make bowers of sticks denoting of narrow avenues between mats of grass. Like the other Bowerbirds, They decorate their bowers with shiny, brightly coloured objects.

The purpose of this building by Male Bowerbirds is to attract Females. Dancing outside his entrance, Male Bowerbird sings in liquid tones to entice Female Bowerbird to come in. Also, for her perusal, He lays out his treasures such as gold coins, shiny eyeglasses, and bright flowers.

A young Bowerbird learning how to build a bower will watch his Father construct his. Then He will practise by straightening up his father’s bower. Afterwards, He will build one of his own. Through the years, Bowerbird will develop his own sense of style as He constructs his various bowers.

According to the Australian Aboriginal Peoples, Djuwe, the Great Bowerbird taught the people how to build special shelters for initiation ceremonies. Let Bowerbird teach you how to design buildings to inspire and delight others. Learn the art of building from the Bowerbird Family. Remember that architecture does matter to the human spirit.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Animals and Elements (2)

Rabbit (European): Earth

The ancestral species for domestic rabbits, European Rabbit is the only rabbit of her kind. Originally living only in the Western Mediterranean area, European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus (which means “hare-like digger”)) was introduced throughout Europe by the Romans. Unlike other rabbits and hares, European Rabbit is quite sociable, living in large colonies. Preferring to live close to home, she shares burrows with her friends. Her colony (warren) is a network of tunnels, dens, bolt holes, and entrances to live in.

(Note: Marsh Rabbit, a Cottontail, is a strong swimmer and only lives near bodies of water. This rabbit would be assigned to water.)

Raccoon: Water

Denning in trees, Raccoon feeds along the waterways, hunting as she swims. What people think is Raccoon washing her food is actually a form of hunting. All she needs is water to help her find her food by touch. Called arakumen, by the Algonquin Indians, Raccoon, “the little hand scratcher”, picks up things in her hands to examine them by feeling.

Many Native Americans held a deep regard for Raccoon since she also was connected to magic. The Aztecs called female Raccoon, see-oh-at la-ma kas-kay (Cioatlamacasque), “She who talks with the Gods”. If she had cubs, they called her, ee-yah-mah-tohn, “the little old One who knows things”. Because Raccoons handle everything, the Aztecs referred to male Raccoon as mapachitli, “One who takes everything in his hands”.

Moose: Water

Living in the boreal forest, Moose has a strict and constant feeding schedule that he follows. For the maintenance of his huge antlers, Moose makes energy efficient choices. A boreal forest specialist, Moose feeds on berries, twigs, and bark. In the winter, He paws at the snow to feed on edible grasses. He regulates his nutritional intake to take advantage of the marshy and aquatic plants in his territory. To get to the tasty plants, Moose dives down in the lakes. He can often be seen in boggy areas munching on plants.

(Known as Moose in North America, he is called “Elk” in Europe and Asia. (North American Elk (Wapiti) in Europe is Red Deer.))

Deer (Red): Spirit

With his impressive rack of antlers, Red Deer makes an awesome sight. His power and agility makes Red Deer, a challenge to hunt. For that reason, the Europeans regarded him the “Lord of the Forest.” For many chieftains and kings, to bring him down was proof of their power. Because of his regal bearing and grandeur, Red Deer became a part of European religions. Because of Red Deer’s connection with ancient lives, he brings the old religions alive.

Stag and Hind (Doe)

Because of Red Deer’s ancient connection with people, they endowed special meaning to Stag and Hind as well. Each represents the male and female spirit.

Stag: Spirit

Stag worship has ancient roots. To the people of the Black Sea and Anatolia, he was a god of fertility. For Celts, Stag was associated with Cernunnos, the Lord of the Animals. Stag was also the one of the earliest representations of the “Horned God” (the male spirit).

In many stories, Stag signified a great change in a person’s life. White Stag initiated a series of challenges for a person to overcome. For later Christians, Stag came to represent Christ leading souls through the darkness. Stag became the one who guided the person through changes.

Hind: Spirit

The Celts regarded Hind to be a fairy creature who could pass between worlds. Upon seeing White Hind, the seeker would be guided safely into the forest towards the gates of the Otherworld and beyond. Hind were “fairy cattle.” They were guides for people when life seemed chaotic and illusionary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Elements and Animals (1)

Elemental Animals
In assigning correspondences between various animals and the elements, both the cultural aspects and natural aspects of each animal needs to be considered. For example, dragonflies are masters of their small ponds, which would indicate an affinity with water. However to the Chinese and Japanese, they are creatures of flight and the air.

Meanwhile the species of animal also needs to be taken into consideration. Salamanders, in general, like mudpuppy and tiger salamander need water because they are amphibians. However fire salamander has poisons to deter people. This salamander could then be assigned to the element of fire instead of water.

In some cases, the same animal could be considered for more than one element based on different cultural aspects of that animal. Raven is a case in point. As an animal of deep magic, raven would be assigned to water. However, for the Northwest Indians, the Raven brought fire to them. For me a combination the lore and natural habits of the animal determines their corresponding element.


Bear (Brown): Earth

Brown Bears are one of the oldest recorded totemic beings. Ancient legends tell of people sharing caves with bears. (People were contemporaries of Cave Bears (Ursus speleus) in Eurasia.) Early people often sought permission from the elders and from the Brown Bears, before hunting a bear. Brown Bears were powerful shamanic beings that connected people with the Mother Earth through caves.

(Note: The Polar Bear, a maritime bear, could be assigned to water.)

Cat (Domestic): Spirit or Water

Spirit: Throughout the centuries, Domestic Cat’s fortunes has risen and fallen. In Ancient Rome and Egypt, she was a goddess. Because a domestic cat symbolized the Egyptian god Bast, any person who killed a Domestic Cat was put to death. As the Cat-Mother, Bast embodied the benevolent aspects of Cat: fertility, love, and life-giving heat. In Rome, she represented the Goddess of Liberty. Roman legions carried images of Domestic Cat on their shields and standards.

Water: In early Christian times, Domestic Cat was regarded as a helper. Aboard Noah’s Ark, she kept out the Devil, who had taken on the form of a gnawing mouse. The “M” on her forehead was placed there by the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for her aid in putting the Baby Jesus to sleep. Stories of the saints featured Domestic Cat killing the mice that tormented various Catholic saints.

A late arrival in Japan, Domestic Cat did not appear in Japanese folklore until about the 1400s. Since the Japanese believed that she brought good fortune, they made statues of Domestic Cat with her front left paw raised for good luck. In addition, Japanese sailors believed that Domestic Cat kept the evil spirits away that dwelled in the sea.

Canids: Wolf (Grey): Spirit

The Native Americans of the Plains heeded Grey Wolf’s wisdom since she taught them how to live properly. The Kiowa taught their children to respect Grey Wolf through prayer and proper hunting. In addition, many Indian people regarded Grey Wolf to be a good sign since she was strong, wise, and courageous.

Meanwhile among the Baltic peoples, Grey Wolf was associated with the Other World. Sniffing amber, Grey Wolf received the power to communicate with the Unseen Forces. For the Baltic peoples, she acted as a guide to the Other Side.

(Note: The Red Wolf, who dens in trees, could be assigned to the element of air.)

Canids: Coyote: Spirit

Among the Native Americans of the West, Coyote is revered for many things. The Shoshone say that Coyote and Wolf created the world. Among California Indians, Coyote taught people lessons about the mistakes they make in life.

Meanwhile among the Lakota, Coyote was a representative of Wakinyan (Thunder Beings). Those who saw Coyote in a vision were considered Heyoka (Sacred Clowns), who taught, through example, by doing things the wrong way. Within the concept of Heyoka was an acceptance of Coyote’s innate wisdom of purposeful chaos.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Widespread though out North America, Northern Flicker is usually found both in open woodlands and in suburban areas. Unlike other Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker forages on the ground for Termites, Spiders, and Ants. When people walk through the woods, they will often flush Him out while He is busy foraging.

Because of his popularity, Northern Flicker is called many names by many people in many places. His name “Flicker” may come from either flicking his head about or from his distinctive “Wick-err” call. In New England and the South, He is best known as “Yellowhammer” for his yellow feathers. Meanwhile, in other areas, He is called “Yarrup”, and “Wick-up” from his calls. Some other names include “Gaffer Woodpecker” for his ground foraging habits.

Northern Flicker prefers nesting in the cavities of dead trees. However, He will improvise at times. In the desert, Northern Flicker will excavate a nest hole in a giant cactus. In the suburbs, He pecks at buildings and TV satellite dishes, when He cannot find suitable trees.

There is something about watching this Bird moving about that makes you feel connected with life. Native Americans believed that Northern Flicker brought happiness and good luck. With his red spot on his head and yellow undersides, Northern Flicker stands out in our minds. He is a friendly being who promotes fellowship with nature. Listening to his “ki ki ki” calls, we feel at one with nature. Join Northern Flicker in deep friendship.

Science Notes:

1. Flicker (Colaptes auratus) (sometimes called “Yellowhammer) is a member of the Woodpecker Family. Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) of Europe is a member of the Bunting Family.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

KIWI: Sacredness of Being Contrary

Unable to fly, Kiwi instead probes about the forest floor looking for tasty bugs. The sensitive hairs around her bill help Her to sense the underground movements of Worms. Also, at the end of her curved beak are nostrils for which She use to smell with (unusual for Birds).

This plump little Bird has many features similar to Mammals. Like Badger, She lives in a series of underground burrows that She has dug. In addition, Her bristly feathers resemble soft mammal fur. Furthermore unlike other Birds, Kiwi has two working ovaries.

The Maori of New Zealand called Kiwi “Te manu huna a Tane”, (the Hidden Bird of Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest). Making high ceremonial robes (kahu kiwi) out of her feathers, the Maori hold Kiwi in high regard,. They tell of how She surrendered her fine feathers for the greater good. To save the trees, Kiwi chose to live on the forest floor hunting for harmful Insects. Today the Maori are guardians (kaitiaki) of the Kiwi, helping to save Her from extinction.

Many people think of Kiwi as a shy retiring Bird. However, people of New Zealand know different, and can attest to her bad temper. This feisty Bird uses her sharp claws and strong legs to draw blood. Sometimes, this can be deadly since Kiwi’s heavy legs are filled with marrow (much like Mammals).

In the 1880s, Kiwi became known outside New Zealand when She appeared on the regimental badges of New Zealand troops. During World War I, soldiers from New Zealand carved a giant Kiwi (the Bulford Kiwi) in the chalk hill above Sling Camp in England. Today, people from New Zealand are known as “Kiwis”.

Kiwi is an example of the “Contrary”, which some cultures consider to be sacred. Contraries challenge our notions of what is proper and true. The Maori understood Kiwi’s sacredness. A Bird who does not fly, Kiwi opens us to other ideas beyond our ordinary traditions. (But do not be so contrary that you hurt people as Kiwi can do with her sharp claws.)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

TINAMOU: Constancy

When the Incas looked into their sky, they saw the Coal Sack near the Southern Cross as Yutu, the Tinamou. From September to April, Yutu warned the farmers of the coming of the Tinamou to their fields. Resembling a small partridge, Tinamou is a voracious eater who vacuummed up their planted seeds.

Not really a Pheasant, Tinamou is actually a Ratite that can fly (only for short distances). His closet relatives are Cassowary, Emu, and Kiwi of Australasia. (Rhea, the other South American Ratite, is only a distant cousin, and is more closely related to Ostrich of Africa.) Tinamou, who has no keel on his sternum, is a member of the most of ancient groups of living Birds. Ratites make up the Palaeognathae (“Old Jaws”) family of Birds. (The rest of the Birds belong to the Neognathae (“New Jaws”).)

Unlike many other Birds, both Male and Female Tinamou have many mates. After Male Tinamou makes a bowl-shaped nest beneath the bushes, Female Tinamou signals her coming with a sharp whistle. After She lays her eggs, She goes off looking for another Male Tinamou. Meanwhile, Male Tinamou remains behind to incubate the clutch and raise their young. He also waits for other Females to wander by to mate with.

This ancient Bird is still with us. In the rainforest, we hear Him booming with his foghorn voice. We see Tinamou in the sky at night, reminding us of eternity. He offers us a vision of that eternity in the changing seasons. Furthermore, He shows us constancy that lies in the past, present and future. Embrace Tinamou’s message of finding constancy in change.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Elements (2)


Without air, there would be no life. Air is the essence of life. On Venus, the gasses are too inhospitable for life as we know it. The gas giants of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus have liquid nitrogen for an atmosphere, and are considered to be lifeless. Only Earth and Mars which have atmospheres seem to be capable of sustaining life. As an atmosphere, air keeps the heat in, and converts water gasses into liquid. This enables life to flourish. As the wind blows the seeds to the ready earth, so it also brings rain clouds to dry areas.


The alchemy of spirit binds the other four elements together. The spark of spirit unites with the elements to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Without spirit, each element would remain inert. However, spirit does more than add spark, it also keeps the elements in balance so that none could harm us. Too much air destroys trees. Too much fire creates a lifeless world. Too much earth will suffocate us. Too much water floods us. In return, the four physical elements balance spirit. Too much spirit makes us insubstantial and ungrounded.

Works Used:
Cessna, Abby, “Atmosphere of the Planets”, Universe Today, 24 July 2009, 29 Dec. 2009

Leonard, William, “Food for Thought”, Scientific American, December 2008, 29 Dec. 2009

Roberson, Don, “Sandgrouse Family”, Bird Families of the World, 27 Feb 2000, 29 Dec. 2009
Copyright: Virginia Carper, 2010, Animal Teachers