As days are getting longer birds´ voices are becoming even more noticeable. It will be many more in some weeks time. The repetitive melorhythmic stanza of the wood pigeon, the clacking sounds of starlings who also imitate exotic birds they might have met while being away, the tawny owl calling more often now, woodpeckers competing in drumming sessions and of course the melodic flute song of blackbird are some examples of what is going on.
Blackbird is a good teacher to start dealing with birdlanguage. Whenever you hear a blackbird singing its rather long melodic stanzas you can be sure that no enemy will be around, that it is a male probably attracting a female and/or indicating that it is his territory. In contrast to singing, calling sounds much different. It is mostly short sounds usually using one note only to express contact calls, begging or warning. As ground breeders blackbirds are masters in both, ground alarm and air alarm. Typical “duk-duk-duk” sounds in a frequency depending on how close the enemy actually is indicate ground alarm. Highly pitched “ziiih” sounds indicate predators from above as sparrow hawk who is feeding almost exclusively on birds.
Task: Try to differentiate between bird song (or baseline) and alarm. In a next step you could figure out the source of the alarm: Is it yourself or other predators looking for prey? If bird alarm is expressed further away (60 to 70 metres) it could be other animals that have noticed your presence hence uttering a so called secondary alarm. Gradually you will understand what birds are telling about the landscape around.
Sitting (as introduced in the previous blog) is probably the best way of experiencing baseline in bird language. Some more birds are rather sensitive to changes around them hence giving their warnings to all other species around. Tits who are so curious are a good example for that as well as the high “tix-tix” of the woodpecker.
Listen for a differentiation between melodic singers, rhythmic singers and melorhythmic singers. Paraphrase the singing with metaphors, syllables you can hear, etc.
Listen for the second one of a species!
Spot the bird and perceive features like silhouette, type of beak, length of legs, top of head, shape of tail, prominent wing feathers, flight pattern. Add drawings to your nature journals. AP
Extend your `core routines`, combine them and awaken further senses by applying so called animal forms to your sitspot routine. Experience `foxwalk, `owl eyes` and `deer ears`.
Did you ever get to see how a fox is sneaking up on its prey and jumping onto it? Foxes live mostly solitary and are on a hunt at night and at dusk; then they roam their territory in search of food. They use their excellent sense of smell and hearing to track down their prey. Numerous whiskers on the snout and paws are used to perceive even the smallest movement and vibration. According to recent studies, they sneak and pounce on their prey aligned with the north-south axis of the compass. So – they must have some kind of sense of magnetism.
In wilderness pedagogic you use the so called foxwalk to raise your focus and awareness und to move as silent as possible e.g. not to disturb and startle animals. Ideally practised barefoot it basically means bending your knees slightly to gain better balance and slowly putting down your foot whereas toes come first, then the outer rim of your foot and then the whole sole initially without putting weight on your foot. This will enable you to feel the ground and hence to find a good spot for placing the step to come. By slowly rolling over the ground the surface is slowly contracted to prevent rustling noise. If you feel a thin twig e.g. or leaves you would then place the foot to a different place. Once everything will fit you start putting weight on your foot. Even while lifting the second foot you are careful to do so in a controlled way to prevent unnecessary noises. `Foxwalk` you can apply in different paces, quickly but also as slowly as if hardly not noticing any movement. Doing foxwalk in slow motion means that your soles will take over the job to observe the ground while your eyes will be free to watching the environment. This is also called `seeing with the soles`. Fox walking also includes openness, curiosity and full body awareness. Alignment with the path in front of you – wider view – so that you can anticipate sources of noise. Mindful and silent movement involves the whole body, including arms etc. Choice of clothing and shoes is also important.
In contrast to many other animal hunters, owls have a forward-facing pair of eyes, just like us humans, which enables them to see binocularly and measure distances. Their eyesight is many times better than that of most birds, and owls´ eyes are extremely sensitive to light, allowing them to detect small amounts of residual light. In addition, they can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees to secure themselves from the sides. It is important for hunting in the twilight to have the widest possible radius of field of vision to perceive even the smallest movements. In complete darkness they follow their amazing hearing. An owl is able to precisely hear and localize a mouse scurrying under a 20 cm thick layer of snow. It also helps that she can fly almost noiseless.
So let´s train the so called owl eyes. Normally your view is centred to the place of the clearest optical perception. This corelates more or less with a tunnel view where we only see a small field very clear. But our eyes can also switch into a wide viewing mode. To adjust to that mode you can stretch out both arms away to the sides, wiggling your thumbs and moving both thumbs together until both of them get visible. This is wide angle view – seeing an extended area even if a bit blurred. However, what the eye can detect thoroughly is movement and that within a bigger radius. One can also move hands inside towards outside to set the field or even move hands up and down to set the frame of wide angle perception. It is just about playing and getting astonished. The field is usually wider than you assume and it gets wider the more you train. If you have tuned in stay in that mode and see what will come up. Owl eyes offer the biggest chance of opening our visual perception. This kind of viewing, rather wide angled than focused and rather in an attitude of finding than searching is comparable with the practice of the so called soft view. `Soft view` is an perception exercise in yogic and buddhist meditation practice.
Deer are mainly evening and twilight active. In the colder month, ricks and their young join together in herds which then usually break up again in the spring. A herd can include more than 50 animals. In this community there is a regulated distribution of tasks: some graze, the other deer observe the surroundings. As soon as danger threatens, they give a warning signal and an escape movement begins. Deer have excellent hearing. Their ears are long and pointed and are about 2/3 of the length of their head. In addition, dear can move their ears. If they suspect danger, they prick up their ears and try to locate the origin of suspicious noises in the area with the help of ear movement.
So – your own sense of hearing you can support by the practice of the so called deer ears. Here you extend your outer ears by putting both your hands behind your ears to extend the outer ears and pointing them slightly ahead of you. Again – you can play until you have reached best reception. Slowly move in a circle doing so. What can you hear? Try the same movement without deer ears and sense the difference. It is enormous, isn´t it? This also works with open hands facing backwards or upwards. GW
`Core routines of nature connection` as starting point and fundament of `Coyote Mentoring`
In wilderness education and deep ecology it is assumed, that modern people are often not connected with the signs, sensations and voices of their inner self and of the natural world around them. Our body system is tuned into the daily routines and habits which follow the requirements of a so called civilized lifestyle and our genuine natural feedback systems are often half asleep, weakened, distracted or overloaded so to speak. That lack of awareness leads into more or less consciously disregarding the essential needs, vitality, wisdom, flow and cycles of our inner and outer nature – a state of mind and being which is named `disconnection`. Core issue of wilderness pedagogics is to light the spark and nourish the fire of `reconnection`. To awaken and strengthen that genuine human ability it is essential to practice so called `core routines of nature connection`.
Deeper meaning of the `core routines of nature connection` is to expand the human consciousness due to opening up for aware and present being in nature with all senses and getting experience based to realize one´s own close interweaving with the natural network of life, what reawakens curiosity, amazement, openness, trust, awe, gratitude and responsibility for us and our universe in the face of miracles of life.
After five years of personal practicing and deepen and broaden that experience while sharing with my colleague and mentees via performing, journaling and reflecting I have the impression that the `sitspot` or `secret place` might be one of the most valuable mentors among a broad diversity of `core routines`. Mainly because it teaches you to come back to a quiet, open and observant attitude. For me the `sitspot` is like the calm space in the eye of the storm – helps for all what you can meet and find in life.
`Core routine`: `Sitspot` or `secret place`
The `sitspot` or `secret place` is an exercise of precepting, observing and hence re-connecting back to nature. Over the course of the season you regularly visit a place to spend some time in silence to experience the animate earth with all senses and consequently to get in touch and resonance with it. Due to that you will get to know your place and yourself in an intense and awareness rising way. You can find that place following criteria of preferences or the place can find you e.g. guided intuitively by aimless wandering. It makes sense to stick to one or two locations you will become familiar with. So you will learn to perceive changes, to understand movements and processes that the place undergoes in a year´s course. You will recognize the influence of the weather regarding well-being and phenomena. By fully aware approaching the place and staying there you will give animals the chance to get used to your presence and to show themselves – even make contact. You could extend your perception of `sitspot` and your way there by drawing a map of the surroundings, by sensing which story(s), which song(s) the place induces, by exercising in listening, seeing, tasting, smelling, feeling, balancing or meditating. There are no limitations to the curious and friendly tuning into the inner and outer nature within the here and now, except not feeling comfortable and dealing with spinning and jumping thoughts. So you have to find out how to comfort your body and to calm down your mind before or while being at your place. With your returning presence, openness and allowance the place will begin to talk, evoke questions, give comfort and companionship to you.
Personal task as preparation for the LTTA in Germany
Please find your `sitspot` and note how you found the place or the place found you. Which are your criteria for a good spot?
Please note your preparations in order to feel comfy and calm at your place. Do you bring something with you (gear, food …)?
Please try to visit that spot at least three times before we meet in Germany. Take your time and be present.
Take some notes afterwards: thoughts, images, experiences, questions, sensations, songs, poems – whatever appears/ comes up. Which time of the day have you been there? How was the weather/ atmosphere? How did you feel when you entered the place? How afterwards? How long did you actually stay? (…)
If you want, you can extend the core routine by wandering, mapping, sketching, tracking … whatever comes to your mind – only: Please try at each visit to stay at the place in silence and aware for a while before falling in activities again; say about half an hour minimum.