Missives

Brian Fabry Dorsam

Bird Island Dispatch: 02.03.12

I had a spare hour so I walked over to Bird Island with my notebook. As soon as I entered the park I could hear the bustling from the lagoon. To my great pleasure, I found myself able to identify many of the inhabitants on sight, without the aid of my guide. While the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks maintain their substantial majority on the island, there seems to have been an influx of White Ibises, who are now a veritable presence on and around the shore. A female Anhinga was resting atop a stray branch in the middle of the lagoon, contorted beyond initial recognition. She dove swiftly into the water and disappeared from sight. I was anxious to see an Anhinga demonstrate its mythic, snakelike swim, but the bird must have died beneath the surface, because I saw no sign of her after.

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On Death and Life in the Barataria Preserve

The last time I went to the Barataria Preserve I became trapped in the middle of a sweltering bayou, surrounded from above and below by the most venomous spiders in the world. Banana spiders, named for their tendency to hide in banana bunches (surprise!), belong to the genus Phoneutria, which, for those a bit rough on their Greek, means ‘Murderess.’ If one is fortunate enough to survive a bite, the venom can cause one final, ‘uncomfortable’ erection, which, once subsided, leaves one impotent. The sight of one of these horrid creatures would have been quite enough to put me at a steady sprint back to the car for a cry, but by the time I’d noticed them, they were inescapable. The spiders had made their webs across the footpath, dangling inches before my face, requiring me to walk at a crouch to avoid accidentally eating one while my mouth hung open in a perpetual, silent scream. I couldn’t turn back because I could see the hoards behind me, and I couldn’t go further because god knew what breed of evil lay ahead. The only thing left to do was stand still, become painfully aroused, and die.

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Bird Island at susanfoxrogers.com

Susan Fox Rogers, a writer, an editor, and a professor of Writing and Literature at Bard College, was kind enough to publish an essay of mine on her own website. Readers of Missives may recognize it, but it’s worth the click to make your way over to Susan’s site, where you can read her online journal and buy any of her wonderful books. Take a look, y’all:

Bird Island Through an Opera Glass at susanfoxrogers.com

My gear

My new gear: A Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America (generously lent by a dear friend) and a Bushnell binocular (from my parents). Birds – prepare to be identified. Accurately.

Bird Island Dispatch: 01.16.12

My friend fancied a read in the park so I took my binocular along and walked with her to Bird Island. We approached the island just before twilight. I could hear the cacophony of whistles and chirps from the ducks that overtook the island after the Great Egret emigration last spring. The trees were bare with winter and empty of nests. The ducks scampered on the leaf-littered ground, chattering senselessly in perpetual, maddening unrest. We sat on a bench facing the island and I pulled from my pack a field guide lent to me by a concerned friend. I flipped idly through it, hoping that my prior knowledge of the birds would help acquaint me with the guide and how best to use it. Tess pointed and I named the birds when I could.

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The Science of Equality: On Darwin and Dr. King

When an arbitrary group of persons is deemed fundamentally undeserving under the law, this statement reduces, necessarily, to a statement about genetics and evolution by natural selection. Statements such as, ‘The greatest achievements in intellectual life can never be produced by those of alien race but only by those who are inspired by the Aryan or German spirit,’ are statements with thorough evidential falsity. Inferiority is no longer subject to baseless (and often mindless) speculation as it was in the days prior to modern genetics. Since the advancement of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, equality between Homo sapiens has been and continues to be demonstrated by all available science. So, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared black men and women equal to men and women of lighter pigment, he was not simply making a moral claim, he was stating a scientific fact.

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Bird Island Through An Opera Glass

I don’t know anything about birding. I have only birded accidentally, when, by chance, I’ve glimpsed a jay on a walk through the woods or shooed a goose from my parents’ lawn, and, I suppose, if you really want to get into it, that doesn’t count. My vocabulary for identification is limited mostly to pigeons, crows, and bald eagles, and I’ve only ever encountered two of those in actual life. Now that I’m thinking of it, I’m not wholly confident that I could point out a sparrow. So, what moved me to participate in the great legacy of avian observation? Well, there is an air of romance about it, isn’t there? I rather liked the idea of it. I imagined myself, binoculared and notebooked, passing beneath the winter trees, ears attuned to the finest sound. I imagined gazing upward into the sun to spy a swooping egret, gliding deftly with the breeze. I imagined encountering a fellow birder on the path and saying things like, ‘A bit early for this time of year, wouldn’t you say?’ and, ‘I thought so, too,’ and, ‘Ha, ha, yes.’ I imagined all of these things. And so, with little ado and much aplomb, I got myself up early, dusted off an empty notebook and went a-birding.

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