Jon Young came to the neighborhood last weekend, to promote his new book: ”What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World” (to be reviewed in an upcoming post).
This was not your typical book signing, but a 4-hour workshop held outside in Point Reyes National Seashore. Part practical, part presentation, it provided people with the opportunity to experience bird language for themselves, in an outstanding location nationally renowned for its avian diversity.
For the first hour, Jon introduced the concept of bird language. He talked about how hunter-gatherer cultures are able to interpret the vocalizations and behaviors of birds to help them avoid predators and find food, and how we can learn the same skill to deepen our own connection to nature.
Birds communicate a great deal of information through their calls, songs, movements, and postures. When we study these patterns, a complex interspecies communication web begins to emerge. All birds and animals understand this language, because their life depends on it. In places where human predators are still a threat (e.g. lions, leopards, and tigers), the indigenous people know bird language, because their lives depend on it. Bird language is a survival skill. We can awaken this knowledge, because it’s in our blood.
Bird language goes much further than simply tracking predators and hunting for food. It enables us to tend the inner landscape of our life, through a growing awareness of how the birds react and respond to our presence in their world. Bird language is a mirror. A quiet mind and peaceful presence means less bird disturbance. If you have a busy mind and a hidden agenda, the birds will let you know.
After Jon gave his talk, we split up into groups of 10 people. I led a group through a sensory awareness meditation, and then walked them out into the meadow to sit for an hour, to observe the movements, activities and sounds of the birds. Afterwards, we gathered and mapped our observations, and then debriefed these maps together with the larger group.
This group mapping process is fascinating, because it tells an integrated and insightful story of the landscape, as observed and recorded through 50 pairs of eyes and ears.
Highlights of the day included a Pileated Woodpecker gliding straight through the middle of our group mapping exercise, and a Cooper’s Hawk circling for several minutes directly above our heads, at the exact moment Jon was talking about the same elusive Accipiter.
Bird language is the ultimate deep nature connection tool. The more I practise this skill, the more I learn about the webs of relationship in the landscape around me. Because birds not only respond to other animals and birds, they also respond to changes and patterns in plants and trees, weather and climate. Bird language is gifting me a holistic, ecological awareness of place. And it’s not only connecting me to the outer world, it’s also connecting me to the inner world. Bird Language is more than a survival skill, it’s a thrival skill.