Talley Kayser Reflections


Shaver's Creek
Jul 11, 2019 · 44 min read

Lake Perez

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Field Note: Vocalizations

Two women have lifted
a boy called Mason
above their heads

The Bluebird Meadow

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Politics age even less well than
poetry. Nonetheless, I sit in a

The Chestnut Plantation

On Frankenchestnuts (and Other Magics)

Long, long ago, in the wilds of California, I used to play a trick on children entrusted to my care. As we walked through the forest together — yours truly and a gaggle of twelve-or-so-year-olds there to learn about natural history — I’d call for a break, then produce (with flourishes) brightly colored bandanas, to be tied tight around the children’s eyes. After checking the security of the knots, I’d line the young ‘uns up, put each person’s hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them, and tell them to follow my voice as I sang. Then I would walk off the trail.

The Lake Trail

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Meeting the Neighbors: A Narrative Introduction to Birding (Intended for Complete Beginners)

I moved to Pennsylvania from the Southern coast, where I had begun to learn birds: marshbirds and shorebirds, obliging creatures who wing their way over open water, high-step among the banks of brackish creeks, or cluster at the edges of beaches during tidefall. Coastal birds can be showy — if you’re in a googling mood, check out black skimmers, snowy egrets, and tricolored herons — and, conveniently, they tend to hang out in places where they are easy to see.

  1. the where/when/what of a bird’s behavior. Knowing the GISS and basic behaviors of some birds makes it possible to identify them
  1. Try to look up the bird.
  2. Flip through many pages (or twiddle on a smartphone) with my head down.
  3. Realize I do not have enough information to positively identify the bird.
  4. Look up.
  5. Not see a bird.
  1. Note whatever markings I can, as well as GISS, location, and behavior.
  2. Sketch the bird to the best of my ability.
  3. Flip through many pages with my head down.
  4. (Hopefully) find the bird in Sibley.
  5. Revise my sketch to match the Sibley prototype.
  6. Look up.

The Raptor Center

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On Enclosure, Ethology, and Raptor Rapport

During my first visit to the raptor center, I write pages and pages of notes about individual birds. Most of my notes wrestle with how easy it is to project human emotions onto the animal Other — to “anthropomorphize.”

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  1. David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 45.
  2. Craig Childs, Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2011), 137.
  3. Timothy Morton, Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People (Brooklyn: Verso, 2017), 86.

The Sawmill Site

No sawmill at the sawmill site. Just a ditch.
The sign says the ditch is a mill-race.
A mill-race is a diversion.

Twin Bridges

Stream Sampling at Twin Bridges

I once visited a friend of a friend whose basement was a library of sound. Records, yes, but also little snippets of life called “samples”: car doors closing, his daughter crying, the captive tinkle of a music box. I think of this while walking to Twin Bridges from the parking lot. A bright blue perimeter of plastic webbing and a whole host of signs warn about ongoing construction, but the construction speaks for itself: hollow clungs of thisandthat accompany my muffled thwumps down the path. An interesting sample, always not-quite on tempo, at once amplified by hills and snow-stifled.

The Dark Cliffy Spot

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Rill Talk

Shaver’s Creek

Stories about the natural world

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