“Look at the birds of the air”

I’ve always heard West Africa is good for bird watching.

But it wasn’t until I was without internet or television for over 3 weeks, in my first research site, that I finally had reason to look up long enough to start noticing particular birds. And once I did, I was sorry I hadn’t started a long time ago!

Here are a few I managed to capture with a camera and have attempted to identify:

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Long-tailed glossy starling (Lamprotornis caudatus)

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Northern red bishop (Euplectes franciscanus)

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Village weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)

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Abyssinian roller (Coracias abyssinicus)

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Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus)

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Woodland kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)

I’m new at bird watching, so if anyone out there with more knowledge wants to correct me, please do so!

Had I ever been without internet and television that long in my adult life? I don’t think so. It was an eye-opening experience: at first, to realize how addicted I am to these constant, go-to sources of entertainment, distraction, escape, communication with far-off friends and family. The first few days it was like I was in withdrawal; I wasn’t sure how to cope, what to do in my free time. And then, once I made peace with the fact that I wouldn’t have any internet for as long as I was there (I knew it wouldn’t be more than a month), I realized I was starting to take in the world around me differently. I had to be present in that place and in that moment because I couldn’t jump to another place and time with the touch of a finger. It made me realize how often I am not present in the place and time I’m in. And I’m not even living and working in the West! I don’t even use a smartphone!

I ended up spending a lot of my non-work time simply sitting and being with the local family I was living with. If they were busy with household tasks, I was simply sitting. There were times I thought I’d go crazy. But I started to watch and notice things that I hadn’t before, the most striking being the birds.

What beautiful treasures right under my nose, to which I’d been functionally unaware this whole time!

And so I find awfully ironic and completely sensible Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

My internet-less weeks combined with those words of Jesus force me to think. It makes me wonder how much of the time I spend being entertained, being distracted, escaping, and communicating via the internet and television is actually disguised worry. Or feeding my worry.

Could an exercise like bird-watching, in some forms, be a sort of holistic remedy for worry and internet addiction (and could those two be more closely tied than we realize)? Could it even be considered a spiritual practice, hence why Jesus says to “look at the birds”?

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1 comment
  1. Marcia said:

    “Nature-ally” Dan and I love this ;-).

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