May 13, 2006


The Flight of the Wood Storks

I believe in the wisdom of wood storks. They remind me of a book I chewed on as a pup, one of Mike's old anthropology texts (wonderful musty flavor) about people called Kaluli. They believe that some animals, particularly birds, are the visible reflections of human spirits, spirits who reside in the eerie wilds of the Papuan rain forest.

Leave it to humans to see themselves in the creatures around them, yet I understand the Kaluli's point of view when it comes to wood storks. There is something weirdly reminiscent about them as they congregate along the banks of the lake. They put me in mind of a cloister of bald and aging monks moving silently and slowly in white and black robes. At first, they simply seem austere and contemplative. After a time, however, a kind of ancient grace emerges in their movements as they preen and socialize, perhaps as a prelude to mating.

They are so elegant for creatures of such repellent visages. I approach them more quietly than I do other groups of birds, my head down. I even stand still and watch for a while, as Mike whispers something to me from behind. But, after taking one last respectful moment to admire the old souls, my dog nature kicks in and I dash into their midst, thinking, "Get off the carpet you bald bunch of preening, prehistoric escapees from a Doctor Seuss nightmare! This is my lake, damn it! MY lake!" And I half gallop after them with huffing Labrador happiness, meaning no harm yet asserting the age-old dominance of canines over birds.

The storks lift into sky with a lugubrious, long-suffering look that makes Mike feel guilty and chagrins Molly, the family nature photographer. But I've no doubt those storks have seen worse. I even get the feeling they don't much hold it against me as they glide over the lake together, ascending past electric wires and power transformers, then up and across the the sprawl of the city. Below are streets and cars and thousands of homes with humans inside, stonily watching reruns of "Law and Order." Unknown to them, the wood storks soar above on astonishing wings, spirits seeking sanctuary in the diminishing Florida wilds.

I used to do a lot of birdwatching, and I think my life list is over one fifty. Of all the birds I have seen, I think the wood stork provokes the strongest reaction in me. They look like some prehistoric anacronism. To me, they are fascinating and foreboding, almost repellant.
I like to watch the geese fly over our house. They usually circle, eyeing the nice grass. Then they see me, and they realize it is my grass MINE MINE MINE. I do wish that someday one will get close enough to....hmmm.

My folks got me my own copy of "Winged Migration" so I can study those suckers whenever I want. I think soon I will know enough about their teensy tiny brains to lure one in....
Beautiful pictures! Where in Forida do you live? My dad's parents live in St. Petersburg off of a canal. There are lots of neat birds there too.
Beautiful photos and words...just beautiful.

I would like to see a flock Wood Storks hang out with a group of penguins and I'd feel like I was back in Catholic School.
hi hank!

i followed K9's link to you and i am glad i did.
i was in europe, spain specifiically, and on the highest points of cathedrals were the nests of great wood storks from africa heading north. they nest in southern europe and when the babies are ready they range on. but i disagree with the visage part.....

i had a lady turkey live with me for a while. she was weirdly awkward particularly in flight, and seemed to be from an ancient time. she would roost in a giant virginia pine across the creek. one day, she was just gone. and though she had a fleshy face and scaly legs her long eyelashes made her feminine and elegant too.

enjoyed my visit hank. you remind me of my eva dog, she lasted 16 years, gone this past dec. 3. i still grieve for her. but your face brings the meltdown of love all over again. thank you.
my dear hank,

as an arctic tern, i have quite a lengthy migratory path, yet i have never encountered a wood stork. i suspect we don't travel the same routes. so thank you for sharing these wonderful birds.

but, i must gently disabuse you of your idea that canines have an "age-old dominance ...over birds." yes, we winged creatures are often gentle souls,but don't mistake our sudden flight at your approach as fear or submission. we pity those who cannot fly and least we can do is give you the pleasure of setting us to fight. it is a game of chase -one which you canines rarely win,yet take great joy in. and we birds love to scatter in flight - so its a perfect game - we all win.

I'm with Splash on that Winged Mig. show. But maybe bird brains are smarter than most think; they sure know a lot of stuff. Can't all be instinct, or can it?

Whoa, squirrel at 5 o'clock, later dog . . .

Reminds me..

Babies are coming?
I love birds, when I was in the USA I loved the blue birds and the red cardinals. I could watch them forever.
You chewed on a book, well i'm sure it was good for those teeth!
I don't know much about wood storks--they do seem eerie though. Hope that anthropology book was tasty!
Hank, you've got a great dlog! I have a friend like you at home, he's called Sky. But I'm sure you're a lot more intelectual than him, he doesn't talk about books he read..he sleeps over my books and drools. lol
one word for this post.... "beautiful"... --endo
We believe in birds too. Birds are special, almost holy creatures. Of course they're a ton of fun to chase, but we do admire them.
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