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THROUGH THE WOODS: Happy New Year 2021


“Ring out, wild bells”

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light;

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow…

TENNYSON GOT THIS RIGHT. 2021 must be a better year with new vaccines and Covid-19 treatments, and our lives improved. Let’s get back to more normal lives again. One thing I have vowed to do is to stop watching the news and to skip all the negative thoughts and events that go with it.

Follow the birds to connect to nature. I am going to be an ostrich this year to improve my life. It would be figuratively burying my head in the sand, something that ostriches actually don’t do. It may be this myth came from this bird’s habit when frightened to lie down and stretch its head and long neck out flat on the ground. From a distance the body resembles a bush and helps camouflage it. I wish I could do this and then be sure I could stand up again.

I am laughing, which is a good thing. This winter my time will be spent taking a Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology online course on “Bird Biology,” which includes a large textbook. It is a daunting task but will improve my skills as a bird watcher. Along with this I am reading about one of my favorite and most intelligent birds, the common raven. They occasionally come to my woods and field and do aerial acrobatics, play and chase each other. These are most likely pairs bonding for the coming nesting season. A local nest site to watch is located at the large Shaker Barn at the Darrow School in New Lebanon. It is an amazing, huge pile of sticks which has been rebuilt each year since the 1980s.

Raven in flight. Nancy Jane Kern

Great books about ravens have been written by Bernd Heinrich, a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. Ravens have been observed and revered by man for thousands of years, including by the Vikings. Thor is depicted with a raven on each shoulder. Native Americans watched ravens who would lead the hunters to game. The raven cannot rip open a large animal and feed. After a kill by man, there would be meat and offal for the ravens. Ravens have a similar relationship with wolves, and the raven is referred to as the wolf-bird.

Nature gives us so many new and interesting things to learn and to observe as it goes on in its usual sequences. It should be a much happier New Year for all of us to get back to our usual lives again too.

To contact Nancy Jane Kern email

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