Finding God, self, and community in wild spaces. The better we know our wild neighbors the more we'll discover ourselves.
A vision informed by Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of sauntering, Jesus’ understanding of neighbor, Aldo Leopold’s concept of thinking like a mountain, Rachel Carson’s prophetic voice and John Muir’s way of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of wild neighbors with words.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

When life gives you lemons

After living in the Wellsboro area for for almost four years I was finally able to attend the Earth Day event in the nearby town of Mansfield today.  I was asked to lead some bird walks for the event as a representative of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, so I was excited when the event was originally going to be at the Mill Cove Environmental Area which is a host to many interesting species of native wildlife. But, due to high water the venue for this event was changed to Smythe Park, a grassy park in the town of Mansfield which also contains a couple of baseball fields.

Well, there were lots of great conservation-minded organizations and groups there, and lots of families from the Mansfield and Wellsboro were present. Everything was great, and the only problem was that there were not many birds to show people. The only birds that were reliably present in that spot were European starlings. Not exactly the kind of bird that most people get excited.

But you know the saying; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I set up my spotting scope so it was directed at a starling nest location. During the 3 hours I was there about 20 kids got to take a close look at starlings. They watched them singing from a power line perch to proclaim their territory and they watched them tending their nest which was in the side of a building and they also got to watch.

Many birders can point to a particular species of bird that inspired them to be a birder. For me it was an encounter with a hooded warbler, which is a small species of yellow and black plumaged songbird of striking beauty. I can't help but to chuckle at the idea that perhaps for some kid today was the day they were inspired to be a lifelong birder due to their encounter with, of all species, a starling!

I got to share the starling's origin story with some of the kids and many adults; about how someone brought a crate of starlings to America on a ship that set sail from Europe in the 1890's because they thought that every species of bird mentioned in Shakespeare's plays should be represented in New York City's Central Park. I'd say that things have gotten a little out of hand with the population of European starlings in North America since then, wouldn't you?

European starlings are exotic to North America because they are not indigenous to this continent, and they are invasive because they crowd out other species where they have been established. If the starlings were not present at Smythe Park, there is a good chance that Eastern bluebirds would be. But there were no bluebirds. Only starlings.

But, European starlings are not the most invasive exotic species in North America; that honor belongs to us.

But the message of earth day is that human beings don't have to be the most destructive species; we can be a life-giving presence.

How does the most invasive species on the planet become a life-giving force?

By the presence of God who has the power to change human hearts.

"Change the desires of my heart, O God, so that it beats in tune with yours; and may the changes you've brought about within me find expression in my living."


(Earth day at Smythe Park)

(One starling perched on a wire)

(another starling perched on a wire)

(starling perched above its nest under the awning of a nearby building)

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