January 1, 2011

Happy New Year and a message of optimism - "you never know where they’re going to be"

It’s the mantra on the lips of every bird watcher who soaks shoes in wet meadows and tears pants on brambles. “You never know where they’re going to be”. Chaos theory would have us believe that if we plunked down in a lawn chair in our own backyard and watched the skies we could conceivably see every bird on earth fly over in the course of eternity. This would take a long time. In reality we don’t know where they’re going to be. Normal birds show up in strange places and strange birds show up in normal places, this is what makes bird watching endlessly interesting, the surprises, the suspense, never knowing what's around the next bend. Weather systems blow birds off course from west of the Rockies, Europe, or the arctic. Tired but determined Arctic gulls appear in Newburyport and Gloucester and tiny European falcons on Martha’s Vineyard. What might be called the “optimistic chaos theory” combines the joy of looking for something new with hard work and dumb luck because in the end you never know…


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And, for this New Year I hope you carry the optimistic chaos theory into your every day, may you find many happy surprises around all the cold, wet, and slippery corners.





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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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