“He really was an enchanting person. In some way he was like the spiritual father of everybody…. It is hard to imagine Central Park without Charles Kennedy.” Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love, and close friend of Charles, remembering him after his death in October 2004

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Secret Pleasure In Reporting My Bird Lists

I continue to peck away at a modest biography of Uncle Charles. The main work to date has been reading through his papers and interviewing people close to him. But the only way I can genuinely (credibly?) render a telling of his story is to make it the story of what Charles meant to me and how our journeys intersected. Consequently, along the way I have stored up odd bits of my own written work that in any way relate to Charles's impact on my life. 

Tonight, I came a across a document containing what is, on the surface, a not-so-modest rumple of posts I've made over the years to our fine Cobirds birding listserv. I have kept them (and other pieces) because as I write anything about birds or nature or jazz or books or politics or beauty, I hear Charles––or perhaps I just feel close to him. And then I look at the page and I see his influence: the joy, the whimsy, the anticipation, the child-like awe. It's all genuinely mine now, but mostly gratefully borrowed. I don't write as well or think as well as Charles did. I most certainly don't appreciate as avidly and thoroughly as he did. But here I offer some snips of my stuff as homage––a way of moving his story forward. Thanks, Charles.

A few examples:
From the yard.
Every day, all week long I would turn off KUVO jazz and open the window to hear Billie Holiday.  10 White-crowned Sparrows singing "God Bless the Child."  I want them to stay.

It's day three of Barnum and Bailey's Bushtits.  Five strong on suet feeders they fend off Flickers and Downys.  Under the seed feeders they shoulder up with burly Juncos.  They've temporarily taken the tiny place of a quintet of Mountain Chickadees, which had ruled the small spaces of the yard for nearly a month.  I feel a bit guilty about getting into this show for free!

A burst of brash Bushtits just peppered my feeders-- four-at-a-time on the suet feeders and more-at-a-time on other feeders.  A perfect flying circus! And then they were off, a gray parade of  cartwheels and summersaults.  A fine addition to the yard list here at Parker and Belleview in Aurora.
On my morning walk at Cherry Creek State Park I sneaked into a fine fall concert at the Beaver Pond, a venue with great lighting and spot-on acoustics.
A Western Meadowlark diva opened with an aria about her meadow and its bright golden haze. ("The mullein's as high as a birdwatcher's eye!")
A spurt of comic opera was chortled by Virginia Rails in a baritone duet.
Three tenors dressed as Marsh Wrens rattled out an extended tribute to pugnacity; an old drinking song, I think.
A giddy soprano choir of Gold and House Finches tinkled from the risers through the entire show.
With me in the willow seats were a dozen well-behaved Lincoln's Sparrows and also a Gray Catbird, who, sensing this was not a jazz concert, opted to simply mew along to himself.
Nothing rare, sorry.  But mighty rarified!
Highlights and delights:
In the early morning mist a pearly string of 30 Snowy Egrets was strung along the dam and swim beach.  On the southern sandspit runway one good tern (species) deserved another; four Commons and Two Blacks looking like ultra-lights among the pelican jumbo jets.  And just west of the swim beach I wandered into recess time for a whole school of wired Wilson's Warblers who didn't even notice their shy, stylish classmate, MacGillivray's.
Always a treat.
I post today in praise of understatement at Barr Lake.  It's not that Debbie and I minded the impromptu avant garde concert presented by a Warbling Vireo, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a House Wren, all blowing madly from the same tree.  And we enjoyed the gaudy kingbird and oriole air show.
But this morning's best show was the Subtlety Pageant.
A raft of Gadwall won for Best Use of Available Light--- brief, but stunning.
Several Swainson's Thrushes quietly triumphed for Best Use of Available Shadows--- putting good optics to the test!
Four nicely distributed Lincoln's Sparrows won in the Most Elegant Skulker category--- handsome little surprisers.
And one special Orange-crowned Warbler grabbed the award for Best Discreet Flash of Crown Patch--- a modest, but memorable performance.

It was a good morning at a great place.

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