Sunday, December 31, 2023

What I Read in 2023

The last two books I finished in 2023 were book #90, Savor, by Shauna Niequist, and book #91, You Are the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen.

Here's the complete list of the rest of what I read in 2023:

Books #1 - #4

Books #5 - #10 

Books #11 - #14

Books #15 - #20 

Books #22 - #25

Books #26 - #36 

Books #37 - #55

Books #56 - #66 

Books #67 - #73

Books #74 - #77 

Books #78 - #83

Books #84 - #89 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Reading Update

Book #84 of the year was Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, by C.S. Lewis. I'd read this several times before, and when I wanted to revisit it, I couldn't find a paper copy. My children introduced me to the Gutenberg Project, and the link is to their version, which I read on my screen. It's a good discussion of some aspects of prayer, framed as a series of letters to a friend, Malcolm.

Book #85 was After I Do, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Lauren and Ryan have been married for nine years, and it's not going well. They decide to separate for a year and then figure out what to do. This book is more substantive than that summary makes it sound, and I enjoyed my third book by this author.

Book #86 was a title I've been seeing everywhere: Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, by Katherine May. I found it didn't fully live up to its hype, but as with Wintering, there were some bits I really loved. 


A taste: “One night I press the button on my electric toothbrush to find it with only the lowest burr of its battery left. The engine inside can barely shift the bristles. I see it clearly for the first time: this is me. I am out of charge. I’ve been leaking out energy for too long, and I don’t know how to get it back again.

Waking in the middle of that night, I remember something I used to do. I pad downstairs to greet the moon, and then sit in a garden chair and kick off my slippers. I let my bare feet make contact with the cold patio tiles, and I feel the tingle of exchange between the earth and me, the instant reciprocity. I close my eyes and let my mind sink downwards. I relieve myself of the duty to search for language. I let myself feel instead.”

Book #87 was If He Had Been With Me, by Laura Nowlin. This reminded me of something written in a hurry by a teenager, right down to the frequent lack of punctuation. But I kept reading, thinking there was going to be a big twist. There really wasn't. 

Book #88 was My Hands Came Away Red, by Lisa McKay. This is the story of a short-term mission trip gone unexpectedly traumatic. I found it very readable and compelling.

Book #89 was Jonathan Martin's The Book of Waiting: Reflections on Advent and Christmas. This is a quick read, at about 85 pages. I like Martin's writing, and while this one wasn't as intense as his others I have read, it was worth reading, and I'll probably revisit it next Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Poetry Friday: Last Day of School in 2023

I shared Mark Doty's poem twice before on this blog, once in 2011 and once in 2014. It seems perfect for this last day of school until January. 

Messiah (Christmas Portions)
By Mark Doty
A little heat caught
in gleaming rags,
in shrouds of veil,
   torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

   over the Methodist roof,
two clouds propose a Zion
of their own, blazing
   (colors of tarnish on copper)

   against the steely close
of a coastal afternoon, December,
while under the steeple
   the Choral Society

   prepares to perform
Messiah, pouring, in their best
blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.
   Not steep, really,

   but from here,
the first pew, they’re a looming
cloudbank of familiar angels: 
Janice is hosting the roundup today. Head on over and see what everyone else is sharing!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Reading Update

Book #78 of the year was Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is a completely absorbing story, told in the format of an oral history. It's the story of an album, and how creativity works, and the mess that substance abuse makes of lives. It's the story of many people behaving badly, and of music being made anyway. I could hardly put it down.

Book #79 was a reread, Inspired, by Rachel Held Evans. I read this when it first came out, and wrote this very unexcited review. I liked it much better this time around. Just as Searching for Sunday was a love letter to the church, this one is a love letter to scripture, and her experience with it. Rachel Held Evans was someone who wasn't afraid to ask questions. I really wish she were still around.

Book #80 was something I read with my book club, The Watchmaker's Daughter: The True Story of World War II Heroine Corrie Ten Boom, by Larry Loftis. Although I already knew many of the details of this story, it was definitely worth reading and discussing.

Book #81 was Underland: A Deep Time Journey, by Robert Macfarlane. I've been reading this book for more than a year. It's not a quick read, and it's not an uplifting one, but it's completely fascinating. A taste: "Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love. Wrong. What will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207, the stable isotope at the end of the uranium-235 decay chain." 

Book #82 was The High Flyer, by Susan Howatch. I read this trilogy (this is the second one) a long time ago. Frankly it's not her best stuff, and it's not nearly as good as the Starbridge series, but it has its flashes of Howatch. I wish she'd written more books - I've read all of hers. I found this one in a second-hand bookstore recently and decided to reread it.

Book #83 was Robert Galbraith's latest installment of the Cormoran Strike series, The Running Grave. This is a book about a cult. It's really hard reading in places, because it's almost unbearably painful and suspenseful. Not really my kind of book, but I couldn't stop reading it.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here, and Taxonomy!

Welcome, welcome! I'm so happy to have you here in my little corner of the Web. This post goes live on Thanksgiving Day, and so I'm asking you, if you're willing, to include something in addition to your poem, or in your poem, to be thankful for, some reason that your life contains joy in spite of all the horror that goes on in this world. Leave your link in the comments and I'll round up the old-fashioned way. Remember that I'm eight hours ahead of Eastern Time, so I may be sleeping sometimes when you're awake, plus Friday is a workday for me. I'll get everything up there as fast as I can! I have comment moderation enabled, so you won't see your comment immediately. 


For me, the birds have been helping me a lot in the past few years. I got seriously into birding in 2019, when we in Haiti were in a political lockdown for weeks and weeks (we were in person at school only 14 weeks that school year). I decided to learn the birds in my yard, and then as time went on, I became increasingly obsessed. Now that I live in Uganda, I am blessed to be in one of the world's best places for birding. Unfortunately it's not (or at least my house isn't) one of the best places for attending webinars, as I tried to recently to learn about the 2023 eBird/Clements taxonomy update. I'll have to watch the recording instead, as I got kicked off the webinar again and again until finally I gave up 45 minutes in. But even in the few glimpses I had of the speakers and what they had to say, I decided that taxonomy is something I'm thankful for this year. It just makes me feel better about the planet that there are human beings who care so much about getting these tiny distinctions right, about expanding our knowledge of the birds. This year, according to eBird, the "update includes 3 newly described species, 124 species gained because of splits, and 16 species lost through lumps, resulting in a net gain of 111 species and a new total of 11,017 species worldwide!" (You can read more about it at their post here.)


So I decided to write an ode to this wonderful science, taxonomy.


Ode to Taxonomy

you clean the closet,
sort the junk drawer,
alphabetize the shelves:
a place for everything
and everything in its place.

you pay attention,
study the DNA,
tend to the lumping and the splitting,
notice the tiniest details.

you’re a dragon
clawing contentedly through its horde,
seeing what’s there
and feeling richer.

you’re also poetry:
putting words to the silvery flashes
of feather and beak,
giving language to the overwhelming masses
of teeming life,
naming what is.

The world is ours to love,
ours to see and appreciate,
ours to let be,
ours to learn
and know by name.

you see to all that. 

 ©Ruth Bowen Hersey

The first poem is in already, from Linda, who has a collection of gems, as always! Thank you, Linda, and Happy Thanksgiving! Like you, I'm thankful for this community! 

Bridget is in from Switzerland with "a silly take on local real estate." She and all those other critters are thankful for a place to live!


Janice is reading and writing about ravens! I have to get that book!

The Poetry Sisters are writing like Valerie Worth today! Hooray! I love Valerie Worth's writing and am looking forward to all her worthy imitators. The first one to show up is Michelle, who has two lovely entries.

Heidi is marking Thankstaking (go read the explanation) and Climate Friday. Here we all are, knowing...

I was really hoping I'd be able to access Jone's post this time, but nope, still can't. Although I can't read it, I hope you can. You can find it here.

Laura's done a Valerie Worth poem too, and hers is about a hawk! You know I love that!

Linda B.'s also doing Valerie Worth, and encouraging us to get outside! I would love to, but I'm in a class with my ninth graders taking a test (don't worry, I can see them well from my desk), so I can't right now. Later, though...

Alan was inspired by an ordinary event to write a great little poem! 

I'm pausing during a lull (as there are no new comments in my inbox) to reread the roundup so far and realize it contains entirely too many exclamation marks. All the poetry makes me giddy. I can't blame it on Thanksgiving dinner because we aren't eating that until tomorrow. I will try to be less flighty, but I can't guarantee anything.

Mary Lee has a poem in the style of Valerie Worth, too, and hers is about something so small but with so much potential: a ladybug larva. And she's thankful for creativity in all its forms.

Sara is looking at small things with the Poetry Sisters, and she's written about lentils and a doorstop. I'm loving these Valerie Worth poems!

Liz is sharing some Valerie Worth poems too. My favorite lines: "A dog-eared page/creased like a collar,/like a paper crane..." 

Tricia's attic poem is so evocative that I feel like I'm there. And the photo of her son's writer's notebook is priceless, too.

Margaret's eagle poem shows how connected we can feel to natural things, especially birds! Her photo is lovely, too.

Tanita has written some wonderful Valerie Worth style poems, specifically choosing small things likely to be overlooked. "May we," writes Tanita, "by being open, inventive, expressive, and questioning, live our uncertainty and questions into answers that change everything."


Patricia visited but left a link to my blog instead of hers. Patricia, come back and link me!


Irene is imagining "If the Sun Had Shoes." And she's been having a wonderful time walking around in her own shoes!


Carol is writing Valerie Worth poems too, and hers are all about Thanksgiving. Sounds delicious and beautiful! 

Denise is imagining "the last love letter" she'll write, and she has some questions that I also would like to ask. Thanks, Denise!

Patricia is sharing three beautiful poems that are responses to how things are right now.

Thanks, everyone, for participating! I hope you all had a wonderful Poetry Friday!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Poetry Friday: Looking Forward to Welcoming You Next Week

I'm hosting next week! My husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving at our house on Saturday (this isn't a local holiday, and Thursday is a work day). And I'm hosting Poetry Friday next week too. 


The world is having a tough time right now, isn't it? I think it's a good time to search for some things we're thankful for, because we sure can see a lot of heartbreak wherever we look. So when you come to Poetry Friday next week, and leave your link in my comments, could you tell us something good, something that shows you that there's still joy to be had? When I used to teach English, we'd write odes at the end of November, focusing on something we loved extravagantly. Feel free to show the heartbreak too. That's all part of it. 

Here's a poem:

I Wanted to be Surprised

by Jane Hirshfield

To such a request, the world is obliging.

In just the past week, a rotund porcupine,

who seemed equally startled by me.

Keep reading for more surprising things.



See you next week! And be sure to visit Irene's roundup!


P.S. Here's something that surprised me this week: a woolly mammoth, left in my classroom.



Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Reading Update

Book #74 of the year was Cassandra in Reverse, by Holly Smale. This book wasn't what I thought it was going to be, and it kept on surprising me every time I thought I had it figured out. I loved the mythology connections and I loved the way we gradually found out what was really going on with Cassandra. This one was a lot of fun but also very affecting.

Book #75 was How it All Began, by Fiona West. This latest book in the Timber Falls series goes back in time to tell the story of how some of the older characters got together. I enjoyed this very much!

Book #76 was The Wonder Worker, by Susan Howatch. I read this series a long time ago, and recently I found the second one in the series in a used bookstore. I started reading it and then realized it was the second, so I had to go back and read the first. This trilogy, set in London, has some of the same characters as the Starbridge novels. These books are wilder and ultimately I like them less than the other series, but I couldn't stop reading, anyway.

Book #77 was Homecoming, by Kate Morton. This is a family story set in different generations and different countries. It's full of surprises and it's ultimately healing and redemptive.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Poetry Friday: Mud, Mud

It's not Poetry Friday -- more like Poetry Saturday -- here in Uganda. (Here's yesterday's roundup.) I'm taking a break from a stack of lesson planning and grading to tell you that National Poetry Month is still going on, since this week I received a NPM postcard from Irene that has been in the mail for six months. I also received two birthday cards, and my birthday is in February. So those have been in the mail for about nine months. A friend got an invitation to a wedding that took place in June. 



In addition to reflections that the Ugandan postal service is not fast, but does work, this postcard gave rise to thoughts about hippos, and I decided to share with you a song I remember from my childhood, "The Hippopotamus Song," by Flanders and Swann.

It's the rainy season, and therefore the muddy season, here where I live, so this is appropriate listening. I have heard that Lake Victoria does have hippopotami in it, but so far I haven't seen once since moving here. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Birdtober Day Thirty-One: Spotted Owl


The Spotted Owl is best known by non-birding people as the poster child for environmentalist excesses. In the eighties and nineties there was a kerfuffle between loggers and environmentalists, and in the news this was presented as a zero sum game. Either the birds would survive, or people would. 

Once I was asked to give a devotional to a Christian group, and I talked, with photos, about the local birds in that place, and how the Bible tells us to "consider the birds." Jesus Himself talked about the value of birds and how they are emblematic of God's care for His creation. After I spoke, the leader of the group began the main part of the meeting by asking the people to prioritize several worthy causes, like ending world hunger, providing employment, spreading the gospel. In a nod to my presentation, he added protecting birds to his list, and then laughingly commented that of course nobody would ever put that high in their priorities. But like the Spotted Owl controversy, this misses the point. 

Protecting the environment is good for everybody. We shouldn't have to choose between caring for people and caring for nature. Biodiversity makes life healthier for human beings. Spotted Owls are a complex case (you can read more about that here and here), but I think a step in the right direction would be to stop seeing environmental protection as a contest between humans and wildlife. Can we compromise in ways that will help both? We are all part of the delicate balance, and the whole system will be poorer if any of us cease to be.



In the quiet night

Spotted Owl waits for its prey

Hopes for survival

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Birdtober Day Thirty: Allen's Hummingbird



Green, rust, and orange

warrior speeds back and forth,

guards territory


Here are some other hummingbird poems from the past. These are gorgeous, amazing little birds!


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-Nine: Hadada Ibis

For last year's Artist's Choice, I wrote about the Shoebill, but mentioned I had considered the Hadada Ibis, whose call is a big part of our soundtrack here in Kampala. So this year, I decided to choose the Hadada Ibis for my one day out of the whole month with no prompt. (The videos both use the spelling Hadeda, but on eBird it's Hadada.)

These birds are very abundant and very noisy. Often when we arrive at school in the morning, they are bobbing around on the football (soccer) field, looking for food just exactly the way American Robins do in the US. Many people consider them a nuisance and unattractive, but if you look closely at their teal-toned iridescence, they are quite beautiful. According to one of my students, the local story is that the Ibises' children were stolen away, and their loud call is their attempt to get them back.

Come back, my children

All day long I call for you

Flying and flying


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Reading Update

Book #67 of 2023 was The Trackers, by Charles Frazier. I will always read whatever Frazier writes, and I have reviewed some of his other books on this blog: Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons, Nightwoods, and Varina. This latest book is about the Great Depression, the New Deal, art, and marriage. It's not as good as Cold Mountain, but really, what is? It's still plenty worth reading.

Book #68 was Must Be a Mistake, by Fiona West, who is a friend of mine. I've read several of her books, some in draft form. I appreciate how West includes characters who are neurodivergent, chronically ill, and otherwise quirky. They are always fun and they always lead to lovely happy endings, which in these times are certainly welcome.

Book #69 was Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is the story of a party, but we also get the back stories of many of the hosts and guests. I don't love wild parties in real life or in fiction, but I did like the realistic presentation of how trauma changes people's responses to the world.

Book #70 was Kate Bowler's latest book, The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days. I read a library copy, but I'm seriously thinking I need to buy this one. Here's a taste:

You who are grieving losses, too many to name,

too complex or unbecoming to speak aloud.

Blessed are you, dear one,

searching for someone to understand,

to see your wounds and your hope for healing.

You are seen, as you walk this hard

and lonely road.

Book #71 was Composed: A Memoir, by Roseanne Cash. I read this because it was recommended to me. I didn't know anything about Cash, her family, or her music, but this was an interesting portrait of her life. Especially vivid was her writing about recovering from brain surgery.

Book #72 was Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May. This book wasn't quite what I was expecting, being a little more of a personal story than a study of the idea of wintering, but there were some gems in it. "Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It's a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order." 

Book #73 was a reread, Lori Gottlieb's Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Here's what I wrote about it in 2019. Here are Gottlieb's words to a mom of grown children, from whom she's estranged: "'Maybe,' I say, 'instead of worrying about them, you can love them. All you can do is find a way to love them that's about what they need from you and not what you need from them right now.'"

Birdtober Day Twenty-Eight: Galah



Of all the pink birds during Birdtober this year, this one is the pinkest. Pinker than the Pink Robin. Pinker than the Pine Grosbeak. I think the cap on this bird is the pinkest thing about it, as though it had opted to wear a carnation on its head. I read that in Australia if someone calls you a Galah they may be saying you're an idiot or a clown, or just that your clothing is gaudy. 


Pinkest birdie of them all
Carnation-headed cockatoo
Your endearing, squeaky call
Echoes “Galah!” back to you.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Thursday, October 26, 2023

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Twenty-Seven: Blue Penguin




The official name for the Blue Penguin is Little Penguin. They are also called fairy penguins. They live in Australia and New Zealand and they are the smallest penguin species. For twenty years, people from around the world have been knitting sweaters for these penguins to protect them from oil pollution.

Little Penguin,
Fairy Penguin,
In a cozy sweater,
Tell me, do you think the world
is ever getting better?
People hurt and people kill
and people seem so hateful.
Yet they knit you tiny sweaters,
so for that I’m grateful.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Below you'll find links to all my Birdtober poems so far, and next week I'll post the whole month of birds. Be sure to visit this week's Poetry Friday roundup here.

Day One: Blue-winged Pitta 

Day Two: Cuban Trogon 

Day Three: Eastern Rosella

Day Four: Superb Fruit-Dove 

Day Five: Common Tailorbird

Day Six: Albatross 

Day Seven: Bearded Reedling 

Day Eight: Pin-tailed Whydah 

Day Nine: Peregrine Falcon 

Day Ten: Strawberry Finch 

Day Eleven: Magnificent Frigatebird 

Day Twelve: Azure Tit

Day Thirteen: Potoo 

Day Fourteen: Scarlet Ibis

Day Fifteen: White-naped Crane 

Day Sixteen: Cattle Egret 

Day Seventeen: Turaco

Day Eighteen: Cape Batis 

Day Nineteen: Pink Robin

Day Twenty: Pine Grosbeak

Day Twenty-One: Bluethroat 

Day Twenty-Two: Bohemian Waxwing 

Day Twenty-Three: Black-headed Gull 

Day Twenty-Four: Ornate Hawk-Eagle 

Day Twenty-Five: Mandarin Duck 

Day Twenty-Six: Emu 


Birdtober Day Twenty-Six: Emu


Color changing,
Threat displaying,
Kneel for drinking,
Green egg laying,
Grunting, hissing,
Throat inflating,
Panting, booming,
Climbing fences
for good eating:
doing all this,
then repeating.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-Five: Mandarin Duck



Many bird species show sexual dimorphism, meaning that males and females look different. But the Mandarin Duck has an extreme case of dimorphism. The female is a sensible, unobtrusive little brown bird, and the male looks like a circus performer. I love bird descriptions (they are their own kind of poetry), and here's the description from "Male very ornate with big orangey "sail fins" on the back, streaked orangey cheeks, and a small red bill with a whitish tip. Female has narrow white spectacles on shaggy gray head, bold pale dappled spots along flanks, and pale bill tip."


Mr. Mandarin's a dandy,

colorful, dramatic.

Mrs. Mandarin's more quiet,

quite anti-climactic.

He leaves before the ducklings hatch,

while she's the perfect mother;

just what made these lovely birds

so different from each other?


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Monday, October 23, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-Four: Ornate Hawk-Eagle


Seeing one of these birds must be quite an experience. Some things to consider: their wingspan is between 3 ft 10 in to 4 ft 8 in (117-142 cm). They kill and eat very large creatures like caiman, monkeys, Black Vultures, herons, and agoutis. And they have that cute crest, of which I bet they are quite proud. 


(Bonus: Today's Birdtober bird was also on today's Birdnote podcast! You can listen to it here.)



Enormous bird

on maternity leave,

she stays home

while her mate brings food.

She carefully lines the nest

with more and more leaves

to prepare the nursery.

She sits on her one egg almost all the time,

and once it hatches,

she and her mate 

bring food to the chick for months.

Member of a near threatened species,

beheader of large prey,

gentle mother,

ferocious predator:

Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-Three: Black-headed Gull


The Black-headed Gull
bobs its brown head, calls out “kwup,”
and eats everything.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-Two: Bohemian Waxwing


wings, letters dipped
in scarlet sealing wax;
like feathered northern messages,


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Friday, October 20, 2023

Birdtober Day Twenty-One: Bluethroat


This bird's Latin name is Luscinia svecica, with the second part meaning "Swedish." It got its name because the colors were reminiscent of the Swedish flag.

I really do not like to brag
But I’m a great flycatcher
Plus, I look like the Swedish flag
And that adds to my stature.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Birdtober Day Nineteen: Pink Robin


Little pink and grey
Denizen of neat moss nest,
Fuzzy ornament

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Birdtober Day Eighteen: Cape Batis



These birds live in Southern Africa; the Cape in the name refers to the Cape of Good Hope. It was first described in print in 1760 by a Frenchman, Mathurin Jacques Brisson, according to Wikipedia. I'd love to see this handsome bird, which one source describes as having a "range of strange calls and antics."


Little guy, black, white, and brown,
makes a “buzzing grating” sound.
Forest-dweller, eating flies,
views the world through orange eyes.


 ©Ruth Bowen Hersey



Monday, October 16, 2023

Birdtober Day Seventeen: Turaco


Source of Photos:



There are at least 23 species of turacos, all of which are endemic to Africa. We have several in Uganda, but the first I saw was the Ross's Turaco, sometimes known as the Lady Ross's Turaco. You can see from the pictures above why I couldn't stop gasping the first time I saw them, and many times afterward. What a beautiful, bright, and amazing bird! 

Lady Ross, the wife of the Governor of the island of Saint Helena, showed a picture and some feathers of this bird to John Gould, an ornithologist. Lady Ross had one of these turacos in her possession, and when Gould presented it as a new species to the Zoological Society of London in 1851, he named it after her. There's some information on this and on some of the problems with naming birds here. 

When I was looking for videos of this bird, I found some where the birds were filmed in cages. I also found a site advertising them for sale (though they are sold out right now). There are plenty of these birds around -- they aren't anywhere close to being endangered -- but still I don't like thinking of them living in cages. Here in Uganda, though, some people consider them pests and they are sometimes trapped and eaten, so maybe their lives in an aviary are less stressful. 


My poem has a bit of a flippant tone, but I really do wish people would let birds live in the wild. Fortunately, here where I live there's a clear understanding that tourists love wildlife and tourists are a huge source of income for the country. There are many efforts being made to preserve biodiversity.


Lovely birds of red and navy 

should not be consumed with gravy.

Nor should they be taken captive

even though they're so attractive.

Let these gorgeous creatures be,

on the ground or in a tree,

for they bring their own delight,

flashing colors in their flight.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Birdtober Day Sixteen: Cattle Egret



Cattle Egrets hang out with cattle, in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The cattle get the annoying bugs eaten off of them, and the Cattle Egrets get to eat what they like best, the bugs that surround the cattle. I am sure I am not the only person who can't help thinking of the old Sesame Street song at this point.


In Kampala there are lots of Cattle Egrets downtown. They are often seen with Marabou Storks, and since those enormous birds are scavengers and love to be close to garbage, I would imagine the bug thing applies just as much as with cows, and maybe even more. Often the Cattle Egrets have what appears to be a blond toupee on their heads.

Snowy and graceful,

Keeping bugs under control:

Birds at your service.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Birdtober Day Fifteen: White-naped Crane




Hera, the wife of an unfaithful husband,
often was overcome with jealousy.
She turned women into animals,
sometimes because Zeus loved them,
sometimes because they had compared themselves with her,
and sometimes just because.

Chelone became a tortoise,
Callisto a bear,
Gerana a crane,
Antigone a stork.

Linnaeus called the crane family Antigone
because he got confused
and really, who can blame him?

But unlike Hera,
storks aren’t much concerned about others.
Antigone Vipio,
for example,
is busy breeding in Mongolia,
complete with elaborate dances involving throwing grass,
raising chicks,
wintering in China or Korea or Japan.

You may call them whatever you like,
as long as you leave them alone.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Friday, October 13, 2023

Birdtober Day Fourteen: Scarlet Ibis



Trees blossom with birds
Roosting until the morning
Scarlet sleepover 


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Thirteen: Potoo

Happy Poetry Friday! It's Day Thirteen of Birdtober, which was created as a series of prompts for visual artists, but which I use (this is my third year now) as prompts for poems. Below you'll find links to the first twelve days of content, and then today's poem. Don't forget to visit our host, Catherine, at Reading to the Core, to see what everyone else is sharing on this Poetry Friday!

Day One: Blue-winged Pitta 

Day Two: Cuban Trogon 

Day Three: Eastern Rosella

Day Four: Superb Fruit-Dove 

Day Five: Common Tailorbird

Day Six: Albatross 

Day Seven: Bearded Reedling 

Day Eight: Pin-tailed Whydah 

Day Nine: Peregrine Falcon 

Day Ten: Strawberry Finch 

Day Eleven: Magnificent Frigatebird 

Day Twelve: Azure Tit 


There are seven species of Potoo listed on eBird. I've seen -- and heard -- only one, and only once: the Common Potoo, in October of 2021 in Paraguarí, Paraguay. When I listened to the first video below, the call of this bird took me right back to that time and place. The second video has information about the members of this odd bird family.



That night in Escobar
in rural Paraguay,
at the end of a day of birds,
we went out in the yard
after dinner.

We saw and heard
Short-tailed Nighthawks, three of them,
a Common Pauraque,
a Tropical Screech-Owl,

and a Common Potoo,
a Ghost Bird,
hunting moths with his wide mouth,
filling the warm spring evening
with his haunting cry.

From that night in Escobar
I remember the insect chorus,
the friendly light from the house,
the sense that there was more in the world
than I had known.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey