I recently watched a Nature rerun of a look into some of the work of two Papua New Guinean biologists as they tracked and recorded the elaborate mating dances of the various species of the bird of paradise (the feathered variety, not the plants). Working in the jungles of this remote land does not look easy, and the patience to sit in a blind for days joined only by mosquitoes is not for the faint. However, I am grateful for their tenacity. The dances of the wildly beautiful male birds are stunning. They spread their wings and strut, puff, sing, and even swing upside down from a nearby branch while flaunting vibrant feathers of every hue, shape, and length. Some males were so diligent about clearing the dance floor of loose twigs and debris before the big dance that I think we could use one around the house.
However, maybe even more striking for me was the respectful, even tender way the biologists interacted with the tribal members who covet the colorful and dramatic feathers for their own elaborate dances. The study became a way to help the tribes understand how to preserve the headdresses created from the feathers to help alleviate some of the pressure on the bird population today. Such balancing acts we all need to learn. There is no part of nature that is not under some pressure from human activity, and no doubt, these tribes are experiencing encroachment as well. We humans have a long history of coveting beauty,strength, and land at any cost. Alas, it seems even dancing can take a toll.
The picture that is attached is not of a bird of paradise, but a yellow bird magnolia. A friend and colleague helped to identify it. Over the past few months, I have been surprised at the number of magnolia trees I am seeing in this area of San Leandro. Photographing the blossoms can be a little tricky. If the tree is mature, most of the flowers are too high to photograph. Also, the blossoms are short-lived. More than once I have kept an eye on an unfolding flower for a day or two, only to return and discover that I missed the apex. Fortunately, I am left, not with mosquito bites, but the whiff of a slight, sweet fragrance that perhaps is more intense in the hot, humid climate of their native south.
I understand the wind is expected to shift today, making the day grow hot. I am grateful for what I have seen, for the next time I am out and about, it will be different. We cannot control the wind, but maybe we can dance a little more lightly.