Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Field Guide to the Birds of Cambridge and Surroundings

I hope you love birds too.  It is economical. It saves going to heaven.
-Emily Dickinson

Birds are beautiful and graceful creatures. Not only do birds satisfy our aesthetic sense through their handsome plumage and their sweet voice, but they are marvelously adapted to their respective fields of activity.

-Red Book of Birds of America: Illustrated in Color, 1951.

From the corner of Oxford and Beacon Streets to the edge of Harvard Yard, this highly populated and congested area is home to a fair number of birds. Most are quite common, such as the pigeon, starling, crow and blue jay. But with patience and a keen eye, it's easy to spot some surprises, such as grackles, terns, and red-tailed hawks. I have, for the purposes of this guide, extended the area to include the Anderson Bridge that crosses the Charles River, as well as some portions north of the city so as to give a more complete picture of the birds of the area.

Before you venture to go bird watching, please take note of the following suggestions. When you think you have spotted an interesting bird, take a deep breath. Then, when you are centered and relaxed, follow it carefully with your eye and try and take note of its color, shape, and size. Listen for its song and begin to attach the sound to the bird so that later when you hear the bird again, its image will come right into your mind. Other times, when you see a bird in the distance, you will immediately hear its voice in your head. In this way, the bird will always be with you and you can bring it into your consciousness whenever the need strikes you, even when you are alone and there are no birds around. But if there is anything you can count on in this world it’s the birds. Wrap your heart in twine and clip it to the feet of birds. They will never let it go. Read more
(originally appeared in American Journal of Print)

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