Thursday, September 07, 2006

A walk in the Park

Went across the street to my little favorite corner of Honqiao. Much different place than last time we visited. I came loaded with binoculars (didn't need them, no birds), GPS (couldn't get a signal, it thinking I was still in Corrales), colored pencils and paper (didn't need them either, see comments on binoculars) and my phone (yea, like someone is going to call.) Crossed up the street from where I normal do - scary mistake - hustling across 4 lanes watching the little green crossing man blink my impending doom. Traffic and all that. The park was mobbed, all the same characters as last February, only in much larger numbers. Saw only one new variation on the standard modes of exercise, - feet slappers. People sit on benches, remove their shoes and slap the bottoms of their feet. Had not walked for more than 10 minutes before I realized that there were few birds. Well, actually there were a few birds, but they were all Eurasian House Sparrows, that Asian analogue to our common avian pest back home. House Sparrows love Horses, We have Horses, Thus we have House Sparrows. And so goes the proof for House Sparrows in City Parks. It's a flexible axiom, because House Sparrows love everywhere they can get a free meal.

I did also see my friendly Brown Shrike and a couple of Eurasian Blackbirds, but it was not the same as the winter visit. It seems these little green oases are magnets for birds in tougher seasons. This time of year they are free to pick less noisy climes.

Heartened by the sound of birds singing, I changed directions and went across the park. What I found was quite interesting - a bird "garden." Recall from last time, the birds sitting in little cages hanging in the trees. On my last visit, there were 2, this time there were dozens. All various forms of Thrushes and all singing the most beautiful songs. Groups of men bring the birds into the park, lovingly place them in the trees, open their blinds and then step back and listen to them for a few moments before heading off to the benches to talk to the other bird-men. It was at once quite beautiful and quite sad, the birds all thought they were on-territory, and so they sang like crazy. And had they not been there in those cages, the park would've been silent. Yet the sound and sight of them confined was quite depressing for someone who has stood in the woods on an early spring morning in Princeton, Massachusetts and heard the unfettered dawn chorus. Another cultural item hard for we in the west with our grand notions of nature and conservation to understand.

Not much else to say about the morning, went back to the hotel, hadbreakfast in the penthouse and went off to work in our fleet of vans.

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