About a week ago, I pulled into the parking lot of St. Therese Catholic School and saw these two, large birds of prey sitting at the top of a bare tree. It was only 7:30 am, and the carpool line was in full swing. I wanted to get a closer look, so I grabbed my camera, the only magnification available to me at the time, and waded out into the wet grass. Parents and students trying to beat the tardy bell probably said to each other, "What in the world is Mrs. Owen doing out there?"
I wished for a pair of binoculars, and I made a mental note to myself: keep a bag with binoculars and other field gear in the car for moments like this. The birds were spectacular. What were they? Some kind of hawks, I think. A student told me they were "chicken hawks." My enlarged photos are still not good enough for me to identify them. One flew off to a tree line as I approached, but I was able to watch them for at least 15 minutes. I could hear one calling to the other. The grassy fields around the school must provide numerous prey for the birds. I wonder where their nest might be?
At the IRA conference in Chicago, my favorite session and one of the most meaningful experiences of the week was a symposium of authors, photographers, and illustrators who have been recognized by the Green Earth Book Award. Lynne Cherry, Melissa Stewart, Higgins Bond, Nic Bishop, Sy Montgomery, and Henry Cole spoke eloquently about their childhoods, their work, and their passion for our natural world and environmental concerns.
During her portion of the symposium, Sy Montgomery shared a Buddhist proverb that applied to her own life: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. For Ms. Montgomery, the main teachers in her life have been the animals she has known through research for her books. She and Nic Bishop shared about their forthcoming book about the kakapo parrot in a series by Houghton Mifflin called Scientists in the Field. I am anxiously awaiting the release of this book about a remarkable bird living on a razor's edge and the amazing people working to save it.
Other birds need saving closer to home. Upon my return from Chicago, I am learning about how devastating the recent BP oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico has become. It seems to be a "worst case scenario" in a part of the country that has already suffered so much-- only three hours from where I live. The images on the news and online of people, birds, and other wildlife that are already being affected by the suffocating oil are "teachers" for me, and I hope for others, about the fragile circumstances in which we live our lives.