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AIR & THE MOBILE-TENSAW DELTA: MAPPING WHAT TAKES PLACE IN OUR BELONGING WITH BIRDS

Let us bless the air

Benefactor of breath

Pat O’Donohue, Benedictus

Let’s say it’s elemental – after the Greek philosopher, Empedocles (c. 494-c.434 BC) who originated the theory of the four classical elements.

And let’s begin with Air- John O’Donohue claims: “Birds are the artists of the air.”  Unlike us, they can take to the air and also are at home on the earth.”  This community of  Being defines who we are, our sense of self and belonging.

Blakeley State Park – in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta -- is home to over 300 species of birds.  Let’s visit. From I-10: Go north on U.S. Highway 98 to U.S. Highway 31 and take a right. Turn left on Highway 225 and go 4 1/2 miles. Park is on left.

Spring is at hand, and I think of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls. The narrator falls asleep. Scipio Africanus the Elder appears and guides him through the celestial spheres to a gate promising a “welle of grace.”  Here, Nature’s holding a parliament in which the birds will choose their mates.

So, let’s look at some birds in parliament at Blakeley State Park:

THE SWALLOW-TAILED KITE – deemed the coolest bird on the planet. Listen to its courtship call – tew whee  tew whee tew whee.  Mating time’s between March and May; the Swallow-Tail is on-the-ready. Both the male and female take part in building a nest. Dinner consists of small reptiles and insects. Considering our Delta and the last Yellow-Fever epidemic of 1878 that wiped out Blakeley, the kites evidently had mpre than their fill of mosquitoes.

THE RED-SHOULDERED HAWK – Chwirk Chwirk  -- male bird on the make!  Unlike other birds, the female hawk begins to incubate her eggs before they’re hatched, Called– asynchronous incubation,” the young are not born at the same time.  Mother incubates her eggs for 32-40 days, and during this time, Papa brings her food. When the babes are 7-8 weeks old, they begin hunting themselves – at first catching insects—those pesky mosquitoes. 

THE PROTHONOTARY WARBLER – Zweeet  Zweet  Zweet.  Here’s an interesting term: 

“Conspecific brood parasitism,”a behavior rare in songbirds. The female lays eggs in nests of other members of its species.

THE NORTHERN PARULA, originally called the Blue Yellow-backed Warbler.  Hear its trill --  Tayoo zeeeeeeeeeeeeeee chyoo?i  It’s one of only a few birds that nest in Spanish Moss.

Other things related to the air of our Delta are its ghosts.  Some say Blakeley State Park is haunted. It is the site of the final battle of the War Between The States – fought after Ulysses S. Grant surrendered at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865. It is not surprising that soldiers’ spirits would appear. Last year, a panel of ghost aficionados spoke at the University of South Alabama in Mobile – among them, Elizabeth Parker who has written several books about local ghosts. People in the audience, who had been to Blakeley State Park, mentioned camping there and sensing a ghostly presence.

Perhaps the sound heard in the mist, in the dark of night are voices crying: “War No More.”  Let ‘s say Spirits have returned to this land they loved, this place they died for, this place called Home.

THE NORTHERN PARULA, originally called the Blue Yellow-backed Warbler.  Hear its trill --  Tayoo zeeeeeeeeeeeeeee chyoo 

BLAKELEY STATE PARK: MAPPING THE AIR

Voices cry “War No More!”  there where ghosts spirit Blakeley State Park, site of the last battle of the Civil War, fought after the war was over, after Ulysses Grant surrendered at Appomattox  Court House, April 9, 1865, after the death of 75 Confederates and 150 Union Troops. Few tombstones reainl today. Many were stolen, broken, and vandalized. Many are unmarked. It is a site of death, a place where Spirits who died return to hallow their dying ground Hear the birds – the tew whee  tew whee of the Swallow-tail kite, the Chwirk Chwirk  of the Red-Shouldered Hawk, the Zweeet Zweeet of the Prothonotary Warbler, the Tayoo zeeeeeeeeeee chyoo of the Northern Parula as they meet to choose a mate. Life and death commune here: “War No More!”





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