Monday, October 31, 2022

Birdtober: Links to all the poems, 2022!


In this post you can find links to all my Birdtober content from 2022, all 31 days of it!

1: Rooster

2: Campo Flicker

3: Macaroni Penguin 

4: Hummingbirds

5: Swan 

6: Zebra Finch

7: Secretarybird 

8: Carolina Parakeet

9: Razorbill 

10: Pileated Woodpecker

11: Saffron Finch 

12: Black Drongo

13: Turtle-Dove 

14: Philippine Eagle

15: Pied Avocet 

16: Southern Lapwing

17: Spix's Macaw 

18: Snow Bunting

19: Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo 

20: Cerulean Warbler

21: Kakapo 

22: Red-headed Lovebird

23: Eurasian Jay  

24: Greater Antillean Bullfinch

25: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

26: Great Myna

27: African Golden Oriole 

28: White-browed Tit-Warbler

29: Shoebill

30: Egyptian Vulture 

31: Barn Owl





Birdtober Day Thirty-One: Barn Owl


Photo Source:

Rafters of old barns

Inside of a hollow tree

Owls stay warm and dry

©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Here's a site with lots of information on Barn Owls. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Birdtober Day Thirty: Egyptian Vulture


Photo Source:


There's so much fascinating information about this bird at this link, much more than I could fit in my poem. Egyptian Vultures use tools! They are found in three continents! They eat at vulture restaurants!

Named for a villain from Greek culture
Punished by being made a vulture.
Neophron percnopterus:
This guy’s almost lost to us.
He eats dead beasts that have been dosed
With antibiotics; then he’s toast.
Vultures are nature’s cleaning crew.
Egyptian Vulture, we need you!

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Friday, October 28, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Nine: Shoebill



Photo Source:, Mamamba Swamp Shoebill Bird Watching

Last year, the Birdtober prompts allowed for an Artist's Choice day every week. This year, there's just one in the whole month. Such pressure to decide which bird to honor with this one day of promptlessness! I thought a lot about which one to choose, and I had almost settled on the Hadada Ibis, the most common soundtrack of my days here in Uganda. But then, on our October break from school, I had the incredible experience of taking a boat ride across Lake Victoria and into the Mamamba Swamp, one of the best remaining places to see the Shoebills. So of course, this amazing and vulnerable bird must be my Artist's Choice topic.

The photo above is from the Tripadvisor site for our guide's company, and below you'll see some of my own far inferior photos (taken with my phone), plus a National Geographic video showing what we saw: a Shoebill catching, killing and gulping down a lungfish. There are only three to five thousand of these birds left in the wild. As huge and strong as they are, they aren't vulnerable to predators (except that they only lay one egg at a time, and sometimes the egg is eaten by a monitor lizard or a python). The danger they face is habitat loss. Right now there is a chick, almost four months old, and the last photo below shows the chick. We watched the adult and chick together for a long time. (In my poem I imagine that the adult we saw eating the lungfish was the mother, but we really don't know. We might have seen only one adult or we might have seen two. When we saw two together it was an adult and a baby, but both parents participate in caring for the offspring, so we don't know for sure.)

In the primeval swamp,
the Shoebill
stares into the water,
in no hurry.
Suddenly, her head
snaps up.
She has a three-foot long
in her bill,
and he
is not reconciled
to his fate.
He fights back,
and it looks as though
he might get away,
but then,
in one gulp,
he is gone.


In the primeval swamp,
we stare at the Shoebill,
in no hurry.
She doesn’t seem
to notice us,
as she eats her breakfast,
or as she feeds a fish
to her chick,
or as she spreads
her enormous wings
and flies away.
She has things to do.
But we notice her,
as we sit in our boat
surrounded by water lilies.
She is what we are here for.
We want to see her
she is gone.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Twenty-Eight: White-browed Tit-Warbler


Photo Source:

I learned that the sophiae in this bird's scientific name could come from the wife of the Russian ornithologist, Nikolai Severtzov, who first described this species. Or it could come from Tzarina Sophia Maria Alexandrovna. My guess is that Nikolai meant it for both, covering his bases. I decided to put this in today's haiku.

Named for wife or queen
Fuzzy stress-ball of a bird
Rainbow colored fluff

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

That was short enough that you have time to go read some other Birdtober poems. Here are the other poems I've posted this week: Saturday's bird was a lovebird; Sunday's was a Eurasian Jay; on Monday I wrote about birding in Haiti, including seeing the Greater Antillean Bullfinch; Tuesday's prompt on Yellow-crowned Night-Herons got me thinking about complexity, homelessness, and appreciating others; on Wednesday I published a cinquain about the Great Myna; on Thursday I wrote about the African Golden Oriole - and weaverbirds.   Links to the first week of Birdtober are here, the second week here, and the third week here.

Today's roundup is here. For some reason I can't get to the link, but thanks for hosting, Jone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Seven: Golden Oriole

 Photo Source:

Pictured is the African Golden Oriole, which I haven't seen ... or have I?

Flummoxed by Weavers,
I find myself unable to identify
anything yellow.
Any yellow and black bird
could be one of nine species of Weavers,
all of which look remarkably similar.
They all have spherical basket-like nests,
they all sound squawky and excited,
and they are all
without exception
yellow and black.

“Oh no, they’re all different,”
explains my Ugandan guide.
“They are different sizes,
and the colors are different,
and they make different sounds.”
Could have fooled me.

Could an Oriole
whiz by me
pretending to be a Weaver?
(Which one, I have no clue.)
The African Golden Oriole
has a black mask
like the Spectacled Weaver…

When you Google
“Yellow Bird”
you find out that they are
supposed to symbolize
joy and positivity.
To me they symbolize
and a vague sense
that all the yellow birds
are an impossible mystery.

The African Golden Oriole,
joyful and positive as it is,
with its red bill
and its black wing edged in yellow,
with its beauty so very golden,
is no exception.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Six: Myna


Photo Source:

There are several species of mynas; the word is a Sanskrit one. I chose the Great Myna to illustrate here, but my cinquain could refer to most of the species.




Asian starlings

Foraging and talking

Symbols of love and devotion


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Monday, October 24, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Five: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron


In January I birded with my son in Florida, and two times we saw Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. We were excited to see them, so I was surprised that when I started looking for more information on these handsome birds, many of the sites were describing what pests they are. Apparently they take over yards, pooping and vomiting on people and property alike. It's a crime to disturb a nest that's in use. 

All of this got me thinking about the complications life brings us.



When I look up
Yellow-crowned Night-Herons
the references are split between

how to see them, in all their yellow and black glory,
with their feathery streamers flying behind their heads

and how to get rid of them, as they vomit and poop
on people and property,
spewing acid strong enough to dissolve
the shells of small turtles that they snack on.

The ones my son and I saw in the park in Florida
were not bothering anyone,
as far as we could figure.
Good thing, too,
since the law protects their interests
over those of homeowners.

As I walked out to a gazebo on the lake
in the middle of that park
on a cool January morning,
I found a man,
no homeowner,
asleep on the bench
and I tiptoed away to avoid waking him.

The nights in Florida,
even in January,
are warm enough
that the people sleeping in the park
aren’t going to freeze,
but nobody plans to end up unsheltered,
out of options,
just as nobody wants to be assaulted
by the bodily wastes of a lovely, delicate bird.

I find myself wishing
we all,
humans and birds,
had somewhere to be,
somewhere we’re welcome
and in nobody’s way,
somewhere we’re appreciated
for how beautiful,
and irreplaceable
we are.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Four: Bullfinch


Photo Source:

EBird lists fourteen species of bullfinches, but I chose this one because I saw it in Haiti. It wasn't a regular part of my checklists, but one day last year when my husband and I went birding with a friend up in the mountains at Wynne Farm (see video below), we saw five. An email I wrote at the time reminds me that our friend was heard to remark, "Another stinking bullfinch!"

I can't think of Haiti now without pain, both because I miss it, our friends and our life there, and because what's happening there now is beyond terrible. So it is good to think of beautiful days like that Sunday of birding, days full of uncomplicated enjoyment of the natural world. 

I remember that day in Haiti

when we saw 31 species of birds

including five Greater Antillean Bullfinches

and a Narrow-billed Tody

and Jim talked about Ted Kooser

and we ate crackers

and walked only a mile and a half  

in four and a half hours

because we were looking so closely

and listening so well.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey



Birdtober Day Twenty-Three: Eurasian Jay


Photo Source:

From crow family

But spiffier than most; dressed

By haberdasher.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty-Two: Lovebird


Photo Source:

There are nine species of lovebirds on eBird. I chose this one, the Red-headed Lovebird, because it lives where I do, so I could potentially see it in my yard. 


I found out that several countries have had these birds on stamps. (You can see pictures of stamps here.) So that gave me an idea for today's poem.



Which bird's image could be better

For sticking on a loving letter?

When sending out a Valentine,

A message begging, "Please be mine,"

A lovebird stamp is the best choice

To give your sentiments their voice.

Red-headed Lovebird, you won't fail

To deliver loving mail.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey



Friday, October 21, 2022

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Twenty-One: Kakapo


Photo Source:

I am posting late today; Friday is almost over where I am. We have the week off work and rather than posting about today's Critically Endangered bird, the Kakapo, for Birdtober, I have been off seeing another Critically Endangered bird, the Shoebill! Oh my, it was amazing. 

I'll add links to my other Birdtober poems through the week at the end of this post.




why must we always describe you as flightless?

Why do we begin with what you don't have

instead of describing what you do?

You have that lovely green complexion,

an island home with no predators,

a peaceful nocturnal life.

Who needs flight,



©Ruth Bowen Hersey


This week I wrote about Pied Avocets, Southern Lapwings, Spix's Macaws, Snow Buntings, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos, and Cerulean Warblers. And you can see links to weeks one and two of my Birdtober posts here and here.



Bridget has today's roundup here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Birdtober Day Twenty: Cerulean Warbler

 Photo Source:

I've tried to see the Cerulean Warbler in the US, and have never been successful yet. I wonder if I ever will.



I think that I shall never see

This warbler in the sky or tree.

When I've tried to find Cerulean

The response is always Boolean.

The bird you're seeking is not here,

And there's no chance it will appear.

It's of the "Nearly Threatened" kind,

You'll only see it in your mind.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey



Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Birdtober Day Nineteen: Black Cockatoo


 Photo Source:


There are five species of Black-Cockatoo, all Australian birds. The one in the picture is a Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. While these birds are common, their habitat is threatened, and they suffered during the forest fires of the last few summers.


A red tail mentioned in its name,

A bright red tail, bright like a flame;

Yet what endangers this bright flyer?

An Australian forest fire.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Monday, October 17, 2022

Birdtober Day Eighteen: Snow Bunting


Photo Source:


Flying through darkness,

Snow Buntings, drawn like magnets,

Seek tundra, seek home.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey





Sunday, October 16, 2022

Birdtober Day Seventeen: Spix's Macaw



The Spix's Macaw was too beautiful for its own good. Well, it still is. There are about 180 of them left alive, all in captivity. The bird is now extinct in the wild. And it's because people had to own them; always rare since first identified as a separate species in 1819, they were hunted for the pet trade, until they were all gone.  This fascinating article tells about the hope for this bird and the reintroduction to the wild that began in June of this year. A bio at the end of the article says that its author has also written a book on the color blue. Unfortunately it's only in German, and my high school German won't allow me to read it.

often represented
by a
blue bird.

The raucous
Blue Jay,
Or one of the
noisy starling species
in Africa?
Or maybe
an Eastern Bluebird
or a Mountain Bluebird
in North America?

I’m afraid it was
the Spix’s Macaw.
Could it be
this particular blue bird,
extinct now in the wild,
that held the secret of happiness?
Do any of the surviving
Spix’s Macaws
in captivity

Spix himself
only ever saw one,
which he shot.

Now they’re trying
to reintroduce these birds
to the wild,
and maybe that elusive
flash of blue
will be seen again.

that rare,
that unlikely.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Birdtober Day Sixteen: Lapwing

There are four lapwing species on my Life List: Northern, Southern, Spur-winged, and Wattled. I was especially happy to meet the third and fourth here in Uganda, because I could tell by looking at them that they were lapwings. It was just a matter of figuring out which kind. Moments like that are proof to me that in spite of my vast ignorance of birds in general (of which I'm always conscious), I am learning. 

Photo Source:

The Southern Lapwing (pictured) is on twenty-five of my checklists. It's one of those super-common birds in Paraguay. My brother said that his Paraguayan birding friends would always offhandedly remark, "Lapwing, for the list." (Except in Spanish.) "For the list," as in, "might as well add it, even though it's not very exciting."

But, like all those "for the list" birds, Southern Lapwings are lovely, with their striking coloring, their delicate crest, the red eye, that rusty patch on the shoulder. And they're loud; eBird calls them "raucous." 

Southern Lapwing, for the list,

Common bird not to be missed,

Raucous racket, reddish hue,

Everywhere I look, there's you.

Are you proud of that fine crest?

Do you think you are the best?

Southern Lapwing, I don't doubt it.

Don't be shy; come on and shout it!

Common bird not to be missed,

Southern Lapwing, for the list. 


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Friday, October 14, 2022

Birdtober Day Fifteen: Avocet


There are four species of avocets. The Pied Avocet is on the emblem of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). 

See that upturned bill? That's the hallmark of an avocet. Here's how the RSPB explains the choice of this bird: "This Schedule 1 species is the emblem of the RSPB and symbolises the bird protection movement in the UK more than any other species. Its return in the 1940s and subsequent increase in numbers represents one of the most successful conservation and protection projects." (You can read more about that here.)

I wrote today's haiku after watching the video of Pied Avocets at the top of this post.

Wading in the mud

Abundance in black and white

Avocets rise up


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Fourteen: Philippine Eagle

Photo Source:


Today's prompt bird, the Philippine Eagle, is one of the most endangered and rarest birds of prey. It has some other names, too, like the King of Birds and the Monkey-eating Eagle. But the thing I enjoyed most when learning about this bird was watching the Philippine Eagles' parenting (see the video below for amazing National Geographic footage). This species produces one egg every two years and both parents are intensely involved in the care and feeding of the chick. They provide a constant stream of snacks like bats, pigs, lemurs, and other delicacies. The baby starts leaving the nest at about five months, but childhood isn't over yet, as the parents keep a close watch, and continue feeding duties, for eighteen more months. The adolescent practices flying, bouncing up and down impressively before taking off. Many parallels with human parenting came to mind, but perhaps the one that made me smile most was the chick tossing back his head so that his crest, a slightly smaller version of the one on his parents' heads, falls into a perfectly coiffed mane. It reminded me of my son saying, at around nine, "It's taken me years to get my hair this way." And of course, when I write in my poem (below) about the full nest, the empty nest is never far from my thoughts.

Eagle Junior fills the nest,

eating snacks he likes the best

served up by his dad and mom:

lemurs, lizards, it's the bomb.

He's the center of their lives,

and they make sure he survives

while he practices his flight

all day long, and sleeps at night,

while he tends his growing mane

and works his muscles and his brain.

Eagle Junior's loved the best

And his presence fills the nest. 

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Here are some more sites I used for background reading: Edge of Existence, Philippine Eagle Foundation, and

More birds I wrote about this week: Conure (Carolina Parakeet), Razorbill, Pileated Woodpecker, Saffron Finch, Black Drongo, and Turtle-Dove. And there are links to last week's birds in this post.

Matt Forrest Essenwine has this week's roundup.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Birdtober Day Thirteen: Turtle-Dove

When you search "Turtle-Dove" on eBird, seven species come up. There's the Mauritius, Rodrigues, European, Dusky, Adamawa, Oriental, and Malagasy. The first two are extinct, but most of the others are very widespread. And the Mourning Dove is colloquially called a Turtle-Dove, too.

European Turtle-Dove; Photo Source:

Turtle-Doves symbolize love. In Song of Solomon, when it says "the voice of the turtle is heard in the land," it's referring to a Turtle-Dove, not a turtle. They are often in pairs, like in "The Twelve Days of Christmas." And surely part of the connection is that "love" and "dove" rhyme, see also lovey-dovey.

On the second day of Christmas, love

Gifts sweethearts with a Turtle-Dove.

A pair of birds is even better,

More loving and cozy than a sweater.

But birds are best when they are free,

So to show love, just let them be.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Birdtober Day Twelve: Black Drongo


The description of this YouTube video says that the sound of the Black Drongo is "one of the most common sounds of birding in India." I haven't been to India, though it would be wonderful to bird there some day. In the meantime, I love the way birds become part of the soundtrack of our lives. Where I live, it's the constant racket of the omnipresent Hadada Ibis. And in the South Indian state of Goa where this video was made, it's the Black Drongo. With some of the words eBird uses to describe the calls of the Black Drongo, I wrote a haiku for today.



Chatter, flute, whistle

Singing pair of Black Drongos

Soundtrack of morning 


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Monday, October 10, 2022

Birdtober Day Eleven: Saffron Finch


Photo Source:

Yesterday I remarked that the bird of the day, the Pileated Woodpecker, appeared in four of my checklists. The Saffron Finch, a South American bird, appears in 49. In the months I spent in Paraguay, I saw these birds many times. In fact, they are extremely common, in spite of their exotic, spicy name. In one Saturday morning birding outing in April with my brother, we saw 29 individuals. 

It takes 75,000 saffron crocus flowers
to make a kilo of saffron.
Saffron costs more than gold.
Put a tiny pinch in your paella.

It takes only one Saffron Finch
chirping in a tree
to warm up your day
for free.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Birdtober Day Ten: Pileated Woodpecker


I have Pileated Woodpeckers on four of my checklists, all in 2021. Two of those checklists were in Missouri, one in Kentucky, and one in Tennessee. The main impression I had of these birds when I saw them was, "Wow! They are so big!" Pileated Woodpeckers are 16 to 20 inches long. 

For this bird today, I'm not writing a new poem, but instead sharing one I wrote for a friend back in November 2020 when she sent me a photo of a Pileated Woodpecker while I was still living in Haiti.


An Exchange of Woodpeckers

You sent me your woodpecker
And I sent you mine.

Dryocopus pileatus,
Crest a bright cherry red,
Enormous, powerful bill.
Black and white striped head,
Large, glossy, black and white body,
Long black tail,
Hanging out in a maple tree with a few yellow leaves still clinging
As November began.

Melanerpes striatus,
With a red crown as bright as the northern guy’s,
Enormous, powerful bill,
Yellow and black striped back,
Long black tail,
Peering down from a bright green neem tree
As November began.

An exchange of woodpeckers
Across the miles,
Photos flying faster than these birds ever could,
Showing their faces to people in another place
Before the woodpecker cousins finish eating their latest bugs. 

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Birdtober Day Nine: Razorbill


Photo Source:

I watched a video of a Razorbill who went off course ten years ago and ended up in Florida. Before 2012, there were only 14 recorded sightings of Razorbills in Florida. That winter, there were flocks of more than a hundred seen.

Northern bird in southern clime:

Tropical vacation time! 

Razor sharp bill catching fish,

Batlike wings that flap and swish.

Swimmer sleek in black and white,

Enjoying holiday delight! 

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Birdtober Day Eight: Conure

Photo Source:

If you look up "Conure" on eBird, you won't find anything, because the word refers to a class of birds rather than a specific species. A conure is a small to medium sized parrot or a large parakeet in the Americas. The Burrowing Parakeet, pictured above, is an example. It's sometimes called a Patagonian conure.

I decided to write about an extinct conure, the Carolina Parakeet. Since I had read that these birds were extinct, I was surprised to see that there were three listings on eBird with photos. When I clicked on them, I saw that they were all photos of pages from books, descriptions of Carolina Parakeets, in the context of Alexis de Toqueville reminiscing about gleefully killing them in 1831. De Toqueville's friend Gustave de Beaumont commented how bored they would have been during their time in Tennessee if they hadn't had the chance to kill birds. Now these "red and yellow parrots unequalled in their beauty," in de Beaumont's phrase, are nothing but words on a page. The last Carolina Parakeet died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918.




the red and yellow parrots
unequalled in their beauty
flying around the woods
of Memphis, Tennessee.

the red and yellow
unequalled in their beauty
flying around the woods
of Memphis, Tennessee.

     red and yellow
flying around
     Memphis, Tennessee.




©Ruth Bowen Hersey