My Best Bird Pictures in June 22

Great Blue Heron having a snack
Bank swallow
Eastern phoebe
Great Blue Heron
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Male Eastern Towhee
male goldfinch
Fledgling bluebird and dad

“And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.'” Genesis 1:20

Reading Prize Winners: Part Two

I wrote in a previous post of the twelve prize-winning books I challenged myself to read this year and gave a quick review of the first three I read. Here are the next three.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. It also won the Puddly Award for Short Stories in 2001 and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel in 2000. This group of short stories portray the immigrant experience, specifically those from India to the U.S. Usually in a group of short stories, there are not only some I like more than others, there are a few I may not like it all. This book proved the exception as I found every story well-written and enjoyed them all.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021. This is an odd little book (which, in fairness, I knew going in), but I can’t say I ever really warmed to it. I would have liked to have read this with a group, as I am sure it could generate some good conversation, but in spite of its short nature, I believe it would be a hard sell for the two groups I am currently in.

For most of the book, there are only two characters. Piranesi is the narrator of the story and he lives in a building which seems to be a never-ending maze. If that’s not enough, it is built on (in?) an ocean and knowing and understanding the tides is critical. Piranesi has lived there long enough to find his way around and to understand the tides.

The other character doesn’t live there but visits Piranesi twice a week to ask Piranesi to help him with some research. Piranesi only calls this man “The Other”. When Piranesi finds evidence of the existence of another person, things begin to change between P and The Other; and not in a good way.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1993 as well as the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1992.

I admit, Doomsday Book was a bit of a slog at times, but overall, I enjoyed it. A book of time travel where a young woman, Kivrin, is sent to the Middle Ages, but, unfortunately, lands in 1348, the beginning of the Black Death. Meanwhile, back in London, an unknown virus breaks out and quarantine is placed around Oxford, making it impossible to find out what has happened to Kivrin, never mind bringing her back. I loved the characters and was amused at some of the predictions Willis made back in the 90’s (in her world, the only improvement on phones was a visual and this was supposed to be in the 2050’s), and the way a pandemic was handled in this futuristic England. The descriptions of the Black Death made me thankful the pandemic we are facing (as bad as it is) is hardly so grim.
Interesting that there are so many extremely negative reviews on goodreads for this book that won so many awards. I think sometimes people try too hard to read books that just aren’t right for them. Or maybe they just enjoy writing negative reviews.
5 stars for me.

Reading Prize Winning Books: Part 1

One of my personal reading challenges for 2022 has been to read some books that have won different awards through the years. I chose twelve, rather randomly (but mostly based on books I already own). The prizes include Pulitzers, a couple of Hugos, and a Booker. At almost the halfway point of the year, I have read six. In this post, I will list the first three I read and give a brief synopsis and review. The whole list can be found on my goodreads annual reading challenge in the group “On the Same Page”.

In January, I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an Orange Prize winner in 2007. The Orange Prize (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction) is awarded annually in the United Kingdom to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel. Adichie’s historical fiction novel tells of the struggle in Nigeria in the 1960’s when Biafra tried to assert their independence. The characters make the story come to life though like any story concerning war, very sad and heart-breaking.

In February, I read Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. I throughly enjoyed O’Farrell’s take on Shakespeare’s family life. Known details of Shakespeare’s family are sparse, but the fact that he had twins and that one of them, Hamnet, died as a young boy is well-known. O’Farrell takes this family tragedy and brings the characters and the Elizabethean time period to life. Even knowing this would be a tough read (the death of a child), I found the writing beautiful and the characters and their relationships with each other skillfully drawn. I read my first book by O’Farrell last year & thought it was amazing, so I definitely plan on reading the rest of her backlist.

In March, I read Silver Birch, Blood Moon, a fantasy anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. This won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2000. I would say these are “dark fairy tales” but I think unless they’ve been Disneyfied, all fairy tales are fairly dark. I enjoyed these stories, written mostly by familiar authors but several were new to me. Who knew there could be so many takes on The Frog Prince?

I’ll report on the next three I’ve read next week.

Wood Ducks

Finding and watching wood ducks has been a fun part of birding this season. These ducks travel together in pairs and small groups and live in wooded swamps or marshes. They don’t nest on the ground, but in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up for their convenience. Though this might seem strange, these ducks have strong claws that can grip bark and allows them to perch on branches (or boxes). I have seen them come in and out of these boxes, but I have yet to see any young ones. Since the wood duck is the only North American duck to have two broods in one year, I am still hopeful!

How do the ducklings get out of the box or tree when they hatch? The mother calls them and leads the way, but otherwise, they are on their own. At her call, they jump out of their nest–either directly into the water or they waddle their way there. The ducklings are able to jump from heights of over 50 feet. Those little legs don’t seem capable of that, but they’re stronger than they look.

Enjoy the pictures of these beautiful birds and, hopefully, I will post more before summer’s end.

“At Calvary” One Man’s Testimony

mockingbird

One of my favorite articles of the magazine, Christianity Today, is always at the end and titled simply “Testimony”. The testimonies display God’s amazing grace in how He saved a certain person in some kind of unique way. I know some people who were saved at a young age (such as myself) and spent most of their life in church feel slightly intimidated by powerful testimonies. They believe their testimonies are boring in comparison and feel they don’t have much to share concerning the grace and mercy of God. But we shouldn’t feel that way, and reading these miraculous stories always puts me in awe of God’s love and power and encourages me that He is always working, even in those we might think could never be saved and changed.

Years I spent in vanity and pride

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died

On Calvary.

Listening to the words of this hymn made me wonder about the testimony of the person who wrote them. I learned that William Newell had been a young man whose pastor father despaired he would ever turn to Christ. His father wrote to R.A. Torrey, president of Moody Bible Institute, asking him to take his son as a student. He told Torrey that his son’s life was “really messed up” and hoped that going to the Bible Instiute would change his life. Though he sympathized, Torrey responded that Moody was not a reform school, and they couldn’t take his son. The father did not give up. After many letters, pleading his cause, Torrey finally relented and said he would take the boy, but he must agree to visit him every day and to abide by the rules of the institute.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned

Then I trembled at the law I spurned

Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.

Newell did abide by the rules and God changed his life. Some years later after acquiring degrees from Wooster College and Princeton and Oberlin Theological Seminary, he became the assistant superintendent at Moody Bible Institute as well as the pastor of Bethesda Congregational Church.

Now I’ve given to Jesus everything

Now I gladly own Him as my king

Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.

In 1895 while Newell was on his way to teach a class, the thoughts of his testimony and how God had saved him became so clear to him, he stopped in an empty classroom and began to jot down the words to this future hymn on the back of an envelope. As he continued on to his class, he ran into Daniel Brink Towner, the director of music at the institute. Newell gave him the words he had just written and asked him to come up with a tune for them. By the time Newell had finished his lecture, Towner had a tune and they sang the song together.

O the love that drew salvation’s plan!

O the grace that brought it down to man!

O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.

(Refrain) Mercy there was great and grace was free

Pardon there was multiplied to me

There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

What a beautiful, yet simple way to share a testimony! As all of us, at one time, he was unaware and did not care that God had died for him. Yet at some point, God’s Word penetrated his heart and brought him to repentance and faith. I hope you will take time to listen to this song again and worship along with the Collingsworth Family.

Birding at MacAlpine Creek Park January 2022

I bought a journal to keep track of some of the birds I’ve seen and places I’ve visited, but like most of my journals, my writing in it has been haphazard at best. Since I still would like to keep some kind of record, I decided to start recording some of my adventures in this blog.

Reading that various ducks winter at MacAlpine Creek Park (in Charlotte,NC), I have made several visits in the past few months, hoping to see new waterfowl. So far, I’ve only seen mallards and Canadian geese. As much as I like to see these birds, I’ve been disappointed not to see anything new.

On my most recent trip to MacAlpine, I saw several types of birds and most excitedly, several I hadn’t seen there before (though not the waterfowl I expected). I started on my usual route to the marshy area where I have seen a great blue heron and an egret on several visits. Much to my disappointment, there was nothing there. Some mallards soon flew in, but I kept looking for the egret and heron. Then I noticed a bird sitting on a metal cross in the pond (I have no idea why that cross is there. Maybe someone can enlighten me.) Using my binoculars, I realized it was a kingfisher. A first time sighting for me. I took a few pictures and decided to go to the other trail I usually walk and maybe I would come back before I left to look one more time.

Belted Kingfisher

Just as I was leaving that area, a heron flew over my head and landed in a tree. I had never seen this bird in a tree (though I have since learned they nest in trees) and took several pictures from different angles.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

I made my way back to the front pond, hoping some ducks had shown up. I saw some white birds that looked like seagulls. And before anyone corrects me, I know gulls are not just “seagulls” but I confess that is still how I think of them. Anyway, I have never seen these birds at McAlpine before. They didn’t stay long. They were gone by the time I made my loop.

Ring-billed gull
Colony of Gulls

Walking along the other side of the marsh, I finally saw the egret. I guess the slightly warmer weather brought out the turtle.

Turtle and Great Egret

As I continued my walk, I saw something a bit strange up in a tree. I thought it might just be some trash (more than once I’ve trained my binoculars on a plastic bag), then thought maybe it was a nest of some sort.

Strange creature

You probably notice the beak, but I didn’t even see that at first. Once I saw the leg (that’s just one leg; the other is a branch), I realized it was a bird. Another heron. He was probably trying to take a nap, but I walked around him as close as I could and got quite a few shots even before he woke up and began his creaky cry.

Great Blue Heron

I usually see several downy woodpeckers at McAlpine but not this day. However, I did see two other types of woodpeckers. The first a red-bellied woodpecker who I always hear, even if I don’t see them. They are very noisy birds and that’s not counting their rat-a-tat-tatting on trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, male

While I was snapping pictures of this woodpecker, I heard another one drilling very loudly behind me. I’m always reluctant to turn from something I have discovered as I can quickly lose sight of them and a bird in a hand, etc. But, fortunately, I did turn around in time to see a pileated woodpecker. The first I’ve seen here.

Pileated Woodpecker

Last, but not least, I saw a couple of cardinals, a mockingbird, several eastern phoebes, a couple of tufted titmice, and, of course, a scurry of squirrels.

Male Northern Cardinal
Eastern Phoebe
Grey Squirrel

I saw a good variety that day and was pleased with what I saw, even though I still didn’t see any different ducks. I also talked to a couple of other birders who had seen a hawk at close range and was told by another birder of a barred owl that lives there. I’m still hoping to see that owl and get some good pictures of the hawks on future trips.

Tufted titmouse

My Favorite Books of 2021

It’s that time of the year when everyone is making lists of their favorites or what they consider the best of . . . My favorite reads from the past year are a bit all over the place since I read from many genres, but I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these are historical fiction. I’ve finished 142 books this year, but I didn’t try to pick out 21 of the best. (I came close though). These were not (necessarily) books published in 2021, but books I read in 2021. I will list them (in no particular order) along with a short review.

The Beacon of Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw, first published in 1986.

Historical fiction taking place in the 4th century AD. A young woman wants to be a doctor, but women aren’t allowed to study medicine, so she disguises herself as a eunuch and leaves her home in Ephesus to go to Alexandria where she hopes to find someone who will take her on as an apprentice. She soon apprentices to a Jewish doctor, becomes caught up in church politics and has to flee again. This time she finds herself as an army doctor for the Romans, but life continues to be complicated. I have loved every book I have read by Bradshaw and this is no exception. Great characters and interesting historical background.

The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan (1995) takes place in North Carolina after the Civil War and into the 20th century. Ginny’s father has returned from the Civil War but keeping up their farm in the western North Carolina mountains is a huge task for the two of them. When she meets Tom (whose father didn’t return from the war), their attraction for each other and the land are enough for them to marry. Though Ginny wonders at times if Tom was really more attracted to her father’s land than her, they continue to work at their marriage. Their struggles come when Tom becomes obsessed with making money, and Ginny wants to spend time at Pentecostal tent meetings. Both see the other’s passion as foolishness.

The Night Watchman Louise Erdrich (2020; Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2021). My first book by Lousie Erdrich. Erdrich based her story on her grandfather and his fight to stop a bill in Congress which wanted to terminate Native Americans in the name of freedom. It is 1953 and Thomas Wazhashk, a Chippewa Council member and a night watchman at a jewel bearing plant near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota learns of a bill that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land. He meets with others on the council to try and decide what they can do to stop this. Another main character, Pixie or Patrice, also works at the jewel bearing plant and desires to do something with her life besides get married and have kids. She has an older sister, Vera, who has disappeared in the city of Minneapolis, so Patrice decides to try to find her. What she finds is exploitation and soon needs to escape herself. Great characters and a fascinating story.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell (2013). I’ve heard a lot about O’Farrell (even before she won the Women’s Prize for Fiction last year), but this was my first book by her, and I couldn’t put it down.

While taking care of everyday business at her vintage clothing shop, Iris Lockhart receives a letter, then a phone call. Cauldstone Hospital is closing and they need to know what she wants to do with her great-aunt Esme. Iris is sure there is some mistake as she has never heard of this woman. She soon learns that her grandmother’s claims of being an only child were false and that her sister had been committed (and ignored) to this hospital over sixty years ago. Once she meets Esme and does some research, she is horrified to learn how little it took for a family to get rid of an unwanted and embarrassing relative. 

O’Farrell tells Esme’s story through flashbacks, some from Esme’s viewpoint and others through her sister’s whose mind is now clouded with dementia. I found her storytelling compelling and engaging, though, like Iris, I was also horrified to think of the many (mostly) women  who may have ended up in institutions such as this with no one to plead their cause. I will definitely be reading more from O’Farrell.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle Monique Roffey (2009). This is the story of a marriage and also a snapshot of the history of Trinidad. I lived in Trinidad for a couple of years (the years portrayed at the end of the book) and I wish I had been able to read this then. I’m sure it would have given me a better understanding of the country’s history and politics.

Still, in spite of the unusual way it was told (the last years are told first), I found the story of George and Sabine compelling, sad, and relatable. From England, George is offered a job with his company in Trinidad and he promises his wife they will only be there for a couple of years. George immediately falls in love with the country, and Sabine–does not. She grits her teeth and determines to stick it out, but as the years go by, the strain is felt on their marriage. Fiction shortlist for Orange Prize in 2010.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January Alix E. Harrow (2019). Loved this stand alone fantasy. January is of mixed race and questionable origin being raised by a white man in London while her father travels the world finding unusual artifacts for this wealthy man. Is he a benefactor or a prison warden? January finds a door to another world early in her childhood but her guardian insists it is in her mind and when she goes back to find it, it has been destroyed. When January is 16, everything she knows is being questioned and her life and sanity become endangered. I could write more & more about this book, but if you want to read a good stand-alone fantasy, just read it!

Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese (2009). Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born in Ethiopia in 1954. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, they are raised by two doctors from the hospital where they were born, and not surprisingly, they both become interested in medicine though in different fields. Revolution and untold secrets cause Marion to have to flee to America where he learns more of his father’s history.
 

A fictionalized version of what might have happened when Agatha Christie first rode the Orient Express. Trying to escape the shame and hurt of her divorce, Christie rides incognito and soon meets two other women with secrets of their own. Together, they help each other out and even become involved in an archaeological dig when they reach Baghad.

I listened to several excellent audio books this year which was in no small part due to the excellent narrators. The first of my top five audio books: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria Schwab (2020), narrated by Julia Whelan. In France, some 300 years ago, Addie is about to be married to a man not of her dreams. She runs into the forest and calls out for help though she has been warned never to call to the gods of the night. When a man in black offers to give her the life she wants in exchange for her soul, Addie gladly accepts, not understanding the consequences of such an agreement. She will have a (very) long life but will not be remembered by anyone who meets her.

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory (2020), narrated by Louise Brealey. I reviewed the first in this two book series last year (Tidelands) which I also listened to on audio. Midsummer Eve 1670 at a warehouse on the River Thames, Alinor receives two unexpected visitors and neither are entirely welcome. James Avery is the lover who deserted her years earlier. The other is a Venetian woman who claims to be the widow of Alinor’s son, Rob. Alinor refuses to see the first and though outwardly she accepts the widow’s claims–inwardly, she does not believe her son is dead. Her daughter, however, is taken in by this glamourous Venetian, so Alinor must bide her time to learn what has truly happened to her son.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016). Though unfamiliar with Noah’s comedy routines, I had heard he read this memoir himself and did a great job. I totally agree that his reading was excellent and often humorous, but it is much deeper than just a comedy routine. Born to a black mother and a white father in apartheid South Africa, Noah’s birth was literally a crime. Noah tells what it was like growing up where his mother and grandmother often had to hide him to keep him from being taken away and themselves arrested. His mother plays a key role in his life and is a delightful character as well. Noah gets into many escapades, but his mother makes sure he gets an education and never wavers from making him learn and to always do his best.

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain (2021), narrated by Marin Ireland (one of my favorite narrators). Anna is a missing persons detective. When a tragedy occurs in her life, she takes off and goes to a small town where she had felt comfortable and loved as a foster child in high school. One of the first things she sees there is a poster for a missing teen. Even though she is there to escape her own grief, she soon becomes involved in this case. She meets old friends and uncovers old secrets.

Honorable mentions: Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018).

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012). Another that was excellent on audio. Narrated by Julia Wheland and Kirby Heyborne.

September by Rosamunde Pilcher (1990).

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron (2001).

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle (1988).

The last three were rereads, something I seemed to do more of this year. Happily, these three were still enjoyable and fun to read.

Happy New Year!

Looking on the Heart–A Book Review

Looking on the Heart is a commentary on 1 Samuel (a book in the Old Testament) by Dale Ralph Davis. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review on a commentary, but I’ve never read a commentary that so impressed and blessed me. Several reviews on goodreads mentioned how accessible and “easy to read” they found this commentary which is true but it is so much more.

1 Samuel is a book of history and prophecy, telling the stories of Samuel, a prophet and the last judge; of Israel’s first king, Saul; and the beginnings of their second king, David. Quite an important part of history for both Christians and Jews, but what does it have to do with us as Christians living in the 21st century?

From the beginning, Davis teaches that though we learn from all three main characters, we must be careful not to try and fit our own lives into what God was doing with them. What is important in reading any scripture is to learn what we can about God. “Once we see what scripture reveals about God we usually will see how it applies to us.” (p. 45) We are not prophets or kings, but in every story or happening, we can learn something about God in the way He interacted with His specially chosen people.

For example, in 1 Samuel 4 we read the story of the Israelites preparing to go to battle with the Philistines. Since the Philistines had just soundly beaten them (killing four thousand men), the Israelites decide to bring the Ark (a sacred artifact that represented God’s presence) into battle with them. The Israelites were not only beaten again, but they lost the Ark to the Philistines as well. So, what does this teach us about God? Mainly, that we can’t perform certain rituals or say the right words and expect God to perform for us. The Israelites didn’t seek God, and they demeaned the Ark by using it as a good-luck charm when going into battle.

“This is not faith but superstition. It is what I call rabbit-foot theology. When we, whether Israelites or Christians, operate this way, our concern is not to seek God but to control him, not to submit to God but to use him. So we prefer religious magic to spiritual holiness; we are interested in success not repentance.” (p.54)

We might read this story and think it doesn’t really apply to us because we don’t have an Ark to bring into battle, but if that’s all we see we will be missing the point. Do we not think if we ask God in a certain way or use just the right words or if we perform certain religious tasks (going to Sunday School, giving a tithe, etc), then surely He will respond to us and rescue us out of any situation?

Throughout this commentary, Davis points us to what God is doing–whether in the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David or in the nation of Israel. Learning more about God and His character is all we need from a commentary. Highly recommended.

Season of Hummingbirds

My first full season of feeding and watching hummingbirds is coming to an end. I thought I would get tired of cleaning out feeders on a regular basis, but, no, all I did was add a couple of more feeders. I’m not enough of an expert to be able to give an accurate count, but I did have at least two adult males on a regular basis and probably a couple of females. In the middle of the season, several more hummingbirds began to come regularly. At least three of them are juvenile males making me assume the females had a successful season with hatching and bringing out their young. It will be interesting next year to see how many of these males show up to stake out their territory.

The tongue is out!

Any time I interact with nature–whether through observation or studying the life cycles of plants, birds, or animals–I am reminded anew of God’s majestic, artistic creation and His unmatched imagination in creating both the hummingbird and the woodpecker; the whale and the seal; the butterfly and the daylily.

“Some people, in order to find God, will read a book. But there is a great book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice?” Augustine of Hippo

Birds of a Feather

For anyone who innocently believes you can just call a flock of birds a “flock of birds,” I’m here to enlighten you. All birds are not alike and neither are their group names. Some of these names are as charming as some minor league baseball team names (looking at you Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp) and others are, well, for the birds. (Sorry!)

So, how did these different names come about and why? Isn’t enough to know those are robins gathered round? Or do we need to know they are actually a ’round of robins’? (Though others state it is a ‘worm of robins’.)

As with many odd questions that pop in my mind, this is one that led me down a few rabbit trails, but, fortunately, others have already been down those trails and have done the necessary research to discover the origin of these terms, most notably James Lipton in his book, An Exaltation of Larks.

First, these are called “terms of venery” or “nouns of assembly” and these collective nouns don’t just pertain to birds but also animals and groups of people.

In the late Middle Ages, inventing animal group names started as a game, soon became a fad, and turned into a challenge which lasted a couple of centuries. (Please remember there were no entertaining blogs such as this one to read in those days).

As James Lipton put it in An Exaltation of Larks, “What we have in these terms is clearly the end result of a game that amateur philologists have been playing for over 500 years.”

To organize these terms and to make them more official, they were gathered together and published in works that the upper classes used to make sure they did not embarass themselves by using the wrong terms. (For example, it was considered bad form to call a “scurry of squirrels” a “bunch of squirrels”).The first of these was The Egerton Manuscript published in 1450.

“The terms were codified during the period when the river of words was approaching its greatest breadth, beginning in about 1450 with The Egerton Manuscript.” (Lipton)

Then came the The Book of St. Albans (also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms) published in 1486 and containing 164 terms. Many of these terms were not for animals but groups of people and were meant to be humorous (“a sentence of judges”, “a melody of harpers,” “a gagle of women”). However, the book’s popularity caused them to become part of the Standard English lexicon.

But I digress. Back to the birds. Here are a few examples:

Group of hummingbirds: Charm (Not sure where this could have come from. The only groups, sorry, charms of hummingbirds I see are chasing each other wildly in what seems to be a pretty selfish defending of territory).

Woodpeckers: descent (Some say this is because they start at the top of a tree and come down, but I have definitely seen them ascend as well as descend).

Descent of Downy Woodpeckers

chickadees: banditry (This is seems oddly appropriate).

A pair of bandits

cardinals: college, deck, Vatican (Several choices here. I prefer a “Vatican of cardinals.”)

finches: charm, trembling

doves: cote, dole, dule, bevy, flight, and piteousness (We always call the ones at our feeder “the drama queens”).

Ducks: Ducks on the water are called a “paddling” or a “raft.” (Mallards have their own terms and as the different writers seem to disagree on this, I will not distinguish between the different types of ducks. This has become confusing enough as it is).

Flamingoes: flamboyance. A flamboyance of flamingoes. This is not easy to say (or spell). Go ahead. Try it a few times.

Hawks: kettle

Eagles: convocation

Owls: parliament (I would love to see a parliament of owls but I don’t really think they hang out together too much).

Crows: murder (This may be a bit unjust but still amusing).

Grackles: plague (We have definitely been plagued with these at our bird feeders).

plague of grackles

But what if you see a group of birds that are a mixed bag of bird types? Is there a correct nomenclature for that? Perhaps “bunch of birds” would do just fine in such cases.

Nuthatch trying to get in a party (or charm) of finches who have a chickadee as their bouncer.

As I mentioned, the naming of groups of birds is only one part of these fascinating collections or terms of venery. We also have a month of Sundays, a mountain of debt, a rash of dermatologists, a cackle of hyenas, a mass of priests, and (one of my personal favorites) a prophet ( or profit) of televangelists.

So, if you want to make sure you are calling all groups by their proper term of venery, check out Lipton’s book though you may be accused of telling a pack of lies if you try to open such a can of worms.