Bird News: Nature vs. Nurture, Bird Culture On the Wing

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 27 December 2017



Bird News
Nature vs. Nurture

Bird Culture On the Wing

Social interactions override genetics when birds learn new songs,
University of California - San Francisco, December 26, 2017.

 I like this research. I grew up in a culture that said, "animals feel no pain," or at least, not "like" us. Well, not only did I, "call bullshit," that line of BS, but developed some fine relationships with animals that each had various types of fine, complex, "characters." We were interacting and affecting each other's behaviors, affecting each other's "songs," in bird terms. Delightful.

Well, now, "we," being science, gives birds credit for actively interacting, engaging, and affecting each other's songs. I'm so proud of us! Our complexity is reflected and complimented by the complexity we can see in the natural world. If and when we can even see it, let alone to find the time and place to properly observe and engage nature. Our world, and the vast majority of people in it, no longer do that.

What's most important barely registers on most people's scale of importance.

Thus the  trail guide accompanying this developing backpacking magazine are both designed and being built to encourage you to get your ass out and engage nature, to encourage us backpackers to stay out there, and to find and encourage the vast majority of disengaged folks who should get out there, to get out there, and finally, get everyone to find that bit of nature in and around each of them, and to protect, nurture, and expand that space.

That's not as easy as it sounds.

Natural space is the most valuable of commodities right now, as it is the place where the potential within our minds, bodies, and spirits can be drawn out of their deep social-urban repression, manifested, and brought together by actually engaging the environment that created them. My experience is complimented by tweeting to some fricking stupid birds, forty miles from anyone... and they all tweet back, and the local squirrel spoils the moment with an outburst of squirrel obcentiy... Well, the squirrels do keep it, "real."

Nature is the Crucible of Character
It's the unique character of each of our perceptions and reflections of the natural world around us that gives individual character and depth to our personal "soundtrack," to our warning and welcome "chirps" for the birds, to the roar of our threats of death and mayhem to maruding bears, how we hold ourself before a closely observing trout, and finally, how our song fits in with all the rest of the tweeters, chirpers, croakers in the forests and on the mountain. And, these, us, are only the front-line singers.
The background soundtrack of Nature changes seasonally, ranging from the roar of mega-hurricaine force winds tearing across the Sierra Crest, to the roar of absolute silence in nature we experience after departing the unnatural roar of the megacity (I call it the "roar" of silence), with every type and intensity of sound in-between, from the, "dampened," silence of sitting within a heavy powder falling on a calm day during Winter, to the roar of torrential rain pounding-down during Summer, complimented with resounding, Earth-shaking, thunder. And, every tinkle to roar within the auditory range of flowing water.

The uneasy feeling at the sound of cracking ice...

One sound I will never forget is the sound of huge boulders grinding together eminating from, actually overcoming the roar of a raging Spring-Thaw flow of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River coming down its upper canyon. A torrential Spring Thaw flow was raging down the mountain, driving these huge, unseen boulders downstream under its raging, muddy flows. I could not see them. But I could hear them. I was like, "WTF is that sound?" That is one hell of a sound, being the subtle, uneasy, sound of hidden death warning anything stupid enough to be trying to get across the river, during that level of flow. If the water don't get you, us boulders will, was that sound's "meaning."

That grinding sound brings the exact same response in me as the sound of fingernails screeching across a chalkboard, but without the high-pitched element of the screech. That sound made me physically uneasy, as if a giant's giant fingernail was screeching across a giant chalkboard. It's a weird sound that makes me think it goes beyond, or below, our normal range of hearing, that, like some sounds, it can be felt as much as heard.

The conscious utterances of High Sierra animal life finely compliments the already impressive menu of sound created by the physical reality of the Sierra, which the rest of us play a few songs with.
I see life as the "lead singer" in the rock "band" of the High Sierra's auditory reality. The physical realtiy itself is, and has been, laying down the heavy seasonal layers of base and rhythm sounds, long before life even began chirpping-in.

I'm not a "hippy," not against guns or hunting at all, nor against eating tasty meat. Neither am I Ted Nugent bat-shit crazy. But, the simple fact is that the simplest animals have complex characters and shared cultural traits beyond being controlled by, "instinct," if not having boatloads of abstract intelligence. Animal life is typically self-aware, interactive, and aware of, and able to ascertain the intent of the various other players in the field. About everything can tell when something wants to eat it, and most things don't take that kindly. Like us, they typically take fright, then take flight or fight. It's pretty simple, really.

I respond to the fact of animal consciousness with the greatest respect for each living strand of the web of life, if I want to eat it or not, which is well-reflected by my desire and intention to keep human populations below the level that makes "industrial" meat, essentially industrial-level cruelty,  necessary or possible. Unfortunately, since our country has gone so far past the point of degrading ourselves and each other, of degrading humans, that degrading animals is not just possible, but has become necessary to maintain the scale of our existence, let alone grow our megacities any larger.

The cost of our lifestyle of massive populations consuming as much as they possibly can has generally degraded the lives of all wild and domesticated food animals, especially the birds, if not the people eating them.

Give me cities only large enough to be kept fed by ranchers and their cows living a reasonably country, rancher-cowboy life. We passed that point a long time ago, both physically, by building these disgusting megacities themselves, and morally, by what we were willing to do to both build them in the first place, and to endure the unnatural reality, the scar on the face of Nature that they've perpetuated after they were built.

And, our political and corporate, "leaders," plan on, and are strenously attempting to grow our American population to over a billion by 2100...



All Bird News




December 2017 High Sierra General News


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