Well, this is the last part of the Bird Divination series!
This can be no more than an overview of bird divination and there are many areas that can be studied further if you wish. The Druid Animal oracle is the best book to read to understand the relationship between the Celtic peoples and birds – although there are only a small number represented. There are a whole range of mythological and folk tales about birds to study around the globe; especially the creation myths, in which many birds feature. Then there are birds which arrive in your dreams. These days too, we may receive messages from birds from other parts of the world, with which we have become familiar through travel or study.
If you don’t want to study anything formally, then just keep a look out to see how many times birds appear in your daily life. There are bird images, symbols and literary allusions all around us. There are birds that are still used as tribal totems – think of the American eagle, or even the Norwich canary!
Below is a list of suggestions for other more practical and creative ways in which to explore the world of birds:
Look into the origins of some of your local place-names, many are based on the ancient dialect names for birds, for example in Cheshire:-
Pyegreave – place where magpies gather
Shrigley – grove of mistle thrushes
Queastybirch – birch trees where woodpigeons gather
Maw Green – marsh where gulls gathered.
Rostherne – roost of herons.
Cranfield – field of cranes.
Meditate whilst listening to a CD of birdsong/woodland noises, or make an effort to get out to somewhere you won’t be disturbed and experience a meditation with all five senses totally immersed in nature. There is nothing to beat lying on a moor listening to skylarks singing above you, or standing on a church tower with swifts screaming past like rockets. There is something about birds that can transport you out of yourself with rapture – read Gerald Manley Hopkins, The Windhover and be reminded what I mean!
Buy or borrow a basic bird guide – it’s best to pick a guide with purely local birds at first, and learn to recognize the different varieties. When you can name the most common in your garden or local patch by sight, learn to recognize them from their calls or their flight. There are many song identification CDs and DVDs available.
Get up early and listen to dawn chorus. In the UK in summer, this begins in the dark, with the blackbird being the first to sing, about forty five minutes before the sunrise. He is usually followed by the song thrush, the pigeon, the robin, the mistle thrush, the dove, pheasants, warblers, wren, tits, sparrow and finch. Even in the winter, some birds, such as robins, dunnocks and blackbirds will sing at dawn.
If you have a gift for whistling, try and get in conversation with a bird. Repeat their calls back to them and find out what happens. Great tits have an easy call which sounds like ‘teacher teacher’ and is easy to copy.
On a more practical level, buy or make some feeders and look after your garden birds buy providing a variety of foods. Remember some birds will use hangers but others will be happier eating off the ground. You don’t have to spend fortune on peanuts and seed, try your hand at making fat cakes or birdie bread from kitchen scraps.
Position some nesting boxes in the trees or on the house – not too near the washing line! These days you can buy close circuit TV so that you watch the birds from inside and out.
Join the a bird charity like the RSPB, or just join in their Garden Birdwatch each spring. At the The Hawk and Owl Trust you can sponsor a nest box.
How to be a Bad Birdwatcher Simon Barnes
Nature Cure Richard Mabey
Discovering the Folklore of Birds and Beasts Venetia Newall
Weather Forecasting the Country Way Robin page
The Boom of the Bitterbump Roger Stephens
The Quest for the Shaman M. & S. Aldhouse-Green
The Druid Animal Oracle Philip & Stephanie Carr Gomm
High in the sky, a blackbird
sings a paean to a pretty day
while in a low bush, his mate
warns of storms on the morrow
Listen also to the wren,
whose shy, sweet cry
tells of travellers and their business
Gallantly the goldfinch flits
from flower to flower, gleaning seeds
from the dead dry heads: an omen
Soft-feathered, silent-flying one:
the owl brings wisdom
and blesses the divination
ferocious and fleet,
gives the sign of ascension:
victory to the one who sees it
Quietly the crane waits
amongst the reeds, a vigilant watcher
renowned for patience:
slender messenger of the gods
sent to deliver glad tidings
Sleek as an evening breeze and
whiter than winter’s breast,
the swan brings benevolence,
sincerity, and grace
Mediator between the sky and the water,
the duck’s course encompasses
What the birds know, they show and tell,
an augury of omens.
As an additional idea for practical work …
The Japanese have a tradition that if you make 1000 paper cranes it will bring a long, healthy and peaceful life – the Crane was a sacred bird thought to live for a thousand years. The paper crane has become associated with the desire for world peace following the story of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who developed childhood leukemia following the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, and the cranes she made while being treated in hospital in the months leading up to her death.
Paper cranes are hung in strings of a 1000 as offerings at the Hiroshima Peace Park. There are several origami tutorials on the web which can show you how to make these cranes. I can certainly recommend making a few paper cranes as a practical meditation on world peace, and the bravery of the human spirit.