17 September 2005

Marking Our Place

Yesterday, i joined poet Michael Jenkins and illustrator Paula Fong at the Medford Central Library before heading up to Rocky Point, Klamath Lake, Oregon, to watch ornothologists catch song birds in mist nets, nets so fine you can only see them if you look just right.

We met our naturalist guide, Melissa Pitkin of the Klamath Bird Observatory(KBO), at the cabin station. We followed Melissa down a tight trail varying between loose dirt, slick moss, and bare rock to the collection station. Keith, the senior ornothologist on the site, handed Melissa an Orange Crown Kinglet. Melissa tucked the bird's head between her first two fingers and closed her thumb across its chest as if the Kinglet were preparing for a rollercoaster ride. "This is known as the 'banding grip,'" said Melissa.

We never actually saw one in a net, as the rain created a need to "pinch" the nets close. We spoke for awhile, only somewhat protected from the rain thanks to the forest canopy. I wished I had a hat to wear like everyone else, as drops dripped down my nose to resemble snot. But, the conversation made all the shivering and sheltering my notebook from the damp worth it. We discussed the local ecology, global databasing, the importance of recording age and sex, and political stymies.

Then, we moved on to the boat house where our naturalist left us to discuss what we could produce collaboratively before going canoing. I won't tell you what we decided to make, but I will tell you about my part of the project: a short short story titled "The Banding Grip."

I want to write the story from both the bird's and bander's perspective, but will probably opt for the bird's only; a short short story doesn't allow for many characters. I'm limited to 300-400 words. I may make the bander a trickster figure, because the mist nets create a greater awareness in the birds, careful to watch out for mist nets.

Once the project is complete, we will submit it for publication in a magazine and present it at the Ashland Public Library on Sunday, November 20, 2005, from 6-9pm. So, I have two simultaneous projects on my plate: Alice in Wonderland play adaptation and writing a short short story for publication. If I don't post as much, you know why.

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