Life and Beauty

I was taken with a recent Maryland Birding Facebook Group post—a post about a front-line Emergency Room nurse. Among her patients were those with COVID-19. One day while at work, she discovered an adult male Northern Cardinal lying on the ground just outside the ER. It had flown into a hospital window and was motionless, but alive. The nurse walked over, “did a quick assessment,” picked the bird up, and carried it to a tree. It hopped from her hands to a limb, and after a time disappeared. She said the experience took her breath away. Then reflecting on the event and her encounter, she remarked, “His message was clear: He was a reminder that even where all seems cold and dead, there is still life and beauty.”


Here’s a recent shot of a fledgling Northern Cardinal. I took it in a densely wooded area at Indian River Park in Chesapeake, Virginia. It was being tended to by its male parent. Bi-parental care continues even after many birds leave the nest. The bird might not represent beauty, but it represents life. It’s a sign that despite everything, life surges forward.

Fledgling Northern Cardinal
Fledgling Northern Cardinal

And here’s the attentive parent, captured several days later. The species’ “affinity for dense tangles” is in evidence here.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

A Photography Aside

I shared a different photo of the cardinal fledgling on Facebook. I took a number of photos—each with the same settings. I indicated I’d taken it at 5000 ISO. ISO is a measure of a camera’s sensitivity to light. A gentleman named Damian commented, “Nice image and nice camera work. I don’t think I’ve taken my camera to ISO 5000.” I replied, “Thanks. Never be afraid to crank up the ISO if you need to. What’s most important is shutter speed/sharpness.” What I meant by that was this (and I was thinking about photo ops that can’t be missed): (1) Always aim for sharpness and don’t worry about noise. (2) A noisy photo is preferable to one that is soft. (3) Apply the reciprocal rule and proper technique and your photos will be sharp.


Most described the fledgling as sweet or cute. Several made comments on its appearance or punk hairstyle. But its parent is a showstopper, as is this Ruby-throat. The tiny bird represents both life and beauty.

Nest-building female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Nest-building female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

So does this 3 x larger Red-bellied excavating a nest hole. Doesn’t it look to you like the room light is on?

Red-bellied Woodpecker excavating a nest hole
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker

Here’s a related photo and better one. I captured this “hawk-sized shredder of limb and log” just a stone’s throw from the cardinals’ territory. The big bird wasn’t front-lit, but I didn’t care. Notice its position as it prepares to take some whacks at the tree.

Male Pileated Woodpecker
Male Pileated Woodpecker


There’s beauty in birds’ forms, colors and patterns. But there’s also beauty in their many and varied sounds. I recorded this singing male Tennessee Warbler in the same place I’d observed the cardinal family: Indian River Park. The long-distance migrant rarely shows up in the Mid-Atlantic during spring migration, yet this one, ignoring the range map, stopped at the park for more than a week. Listen for its high-frequency staccato song, and ignore the road noise on Paramont. Also, see if you can ID any of the birds in the background.

And to cheer you all on, here’s the “cheer call” of the Carolina Wren. His message is clear, just like the cardinal’s. I recorded the loud songster at Money Point in Chesapeake.

And This Just In

Many thanks to Betty Sue Cohen for providing the Ruby-throated Hummingbird photo. I always look forward to seeing what she applies to the canvas. Thanks also to Bill Niven, who directed me to the Red-bellied.

Congratulations to The Peregrine Fund on the 50th anniversary of their founding and for all the hard work they’ve done and continue to do to save birds of prey.

Peregrine Falcon perched
Peregrine Falcon

If you’d like to learn more about this non-profit’s history and successes, please make time to view their film, Beyond The Brink. You won’t be the same after you watch it.

Quip, Question, Quote

Thanks to all who’ve provided feedback. I especially enjoy comments like this one from Duvall: “Thanks for giving us something positive to consider in these troublesome times! Keep up the great work and stay safe.” I responded, “This is all I’m trying to do. Mission accomplished.”

We began with a reminder that amid anguish there’s hope. That’s been the theme here,  from “A Hopeful Time” to the present. That was also the message Doug Chickering recently sent to the Massachusetts birding community. Here are his words:

“Here at last, from out of a chilled and rainy April that seemed to last forever, emerges the real spring. The warblers have arrived, the migrants have come back. Of course, they have already been dribbling in. Pine warblers, Palm warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Louisiana Waterthrush. All on time, more or less, all appearing at their usual places at their appointed time, more or less. They have been a welcome change, a saving distraction from the monster virus lurking in the shadows of our lives.”

Male Yellow Warbler
Male Yellow Warbler

6 thoughts on “Life and Beauty

  1. Love reading your blog! Always envied those who could put pen to paper. For me I chose engineering because I couldn’t spell but I could add 2 plus 2 and get 4. 😂 Did you notice how perfectly round the woodpecker hole was? Can’t wait to see if chics appear.


    1. Bill, Thanks so much. I think you do a better job putting pen to paper than you realize. We’ll both have to keep an eye on that nest hole. See you in the field!


  2. I enjoyed reading your blog. It is inspiring to see your work. Ill keep an eye open for your next one. Pierre (jet ski)


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