Pictures of a new world

2005 March 29
by David J. Ringer

LONGVIEW, TEXAS — My “Birds of New Guinea” arrived today. I looked at it instead of studying like crazy for my modern poetry exam. (I did eventually study, and I think I did fine.) The color plates of hundreds and hundreds of species are breathtaking and enthralling. Birds of paradise, fruit-doves, lorikeets, fairy-wrens, cassowaries, bat hawks — wow!

I’m at a complete loss. I don’t know how to absorb so much information. I’ve worked on North American birds for years, and I’ve gotten them down pretty well. I know how they fit together, and how they are different. I can arrange them in an logical and orderly fashion in my mind. I know what’s a sparrow, what’s a vireo, what’s a buteo. But now I’m left to thumb through pages helplessly as my mind tries unsuccessfully to process “coucal,” “cuckoo-dove,” and “melidectes.” This is one exam I can’t cram for. It’ll take work, and it will be frustrating sometimes. It takes time to learn so many new families, genera, and species. I’m also unsure how I’ll be able to balance my work and my desire to bird. I’ll probably have to ignore birds sometimes, or at least be content with brief and unsatisfactory looks. But it’s going to be incredible all the same! I’m so excited.

Oh, on the way to class or somewhere, I saw my FOS Chimney Swifts. I heard their twittering and looked up to see their stiff fluttering flight. I’m glad they’re back.

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