The title of this post is inspired by a beautiful poem written by the Serbian poet Dejan Stojanovic. Saw this lonely bird on the office gates after a day from work.
“To hear never-heard sounds, To see never-seen colors and shapes,
To try to understand the imperceptible Power pervading the world;
To fly and find pure ethereal substances That are not of matter
But of that invisible soul pervading reality.
To hear another soul and to whisper to another soul;
To be a lantern in the darkness Or an umbrella in a stormy day;
To feel much more than know. To be the eyes of an eagle,
the slope of a mountain;
To be a wave understanding the influence of the moon;
To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves;
To be an insignificant pedestrian on the streets
Of crazy cities watching, watching, and watching.
To be a smile on the face of a woman And shine in her memory
As a moment saved without planning.”
― Dejan Stojanovic
This is a photograph of a nest that I captured from Al Ain Oasis in Jan 2019.
Although we don’t find a bird nest so often, that’s something to reflect very deeply. If we delve in deep and ponder over the intricate aspects of a bird building a nest, that’s truly miraculous and inquisitive. It’s truly astonishing and thought-provoking to see a bird carefully and meticulously engineering its nest like a masterful civil engineer. I thought of sharing some interesting aspects on bird nest construction that I’ve read some time back and trust this would be an opportunity for both of us to ponder and reflect on this wonder around us. Welcome to the Ponder Series.
Nests are usually designed by birds for camouflaging their defenseless offspring chicks from prey. Hatched newborn birds are often immobile and are hatched without any feathers and a well-built nest would cater as smart thermal insulation for them from cold. Grasses, twigs, and yarns are used to construct them and a few birds even choose hair and fine grass within the nest to produce far more comfort and softness and additionally aid in providing extra insulation. Several species of birds use differing kinds of materials in building their nest. Mud, leaves, feathers, are the base materials typically opted for. They’re illustrious to be naturally sturdy materials. They’re additionally inherently elastic and are tough at the same time. Some birds go a step ahead and even make use of plant fibers in a mixed-use with mud. This arrangement prevents any cracks from developing. Mud is usually employed by birds as a structural adhesive to connect totally different components along. Firstly, the best location for building is identified and as a primary step, they’d gather mud and feathers and they’re typically transported via their beaks. Certain birds combine their spittle with mud and at first prepare a base portion that is sort of a hub and that they can house with grass, moss, and feathers. They normally prefer overhanging locations to forestall rain or water from accumulating and inflicting any potential damage.
Some birds sew totally different elements by utilizing their beaks as sort of a stitching needle. Some species like tailor birds commission structures using silk from cobwebs, cotton from seeds and fibers of tree bark. By making use of their sharp beaks, they punch holes on leaf edges and spider silk or plant fibre is seamed through these holes and knots are tied in every sew to forestall slippage. Once this base is available, grass is embedded into the inner chambers. Another inner nest is weaved and eggs are usually hatched in this inner nest. Isn’t that amazing?
” The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Think about these wonderful creatures and how do they accomplish all these miraculous constructions and acts of purpose. Hope next time when you glance at a bird, you’ll be having an entirely different perspective. Pondering, thinking and reflecting on everything around us helps unravel the subtle depths of the Divine.
” Glory be to You, O One whom flying insects glorify with Your praise with their chants of thanksgiving. Birds and their chicks glorfy in the nests with their songs of gratitude, through the tongue of the order and balance in their creation and movements, and of their designs and adornment. They proclaim Your favors on them and thereby manifest their gratitude when tasting the fruits of Your kindness and being fed with the works of Your mercy. “
In front of my apartment, birds occasionally come and sit on the terrace window and chirp and spend time on that terrace. And there you go! that’s the birth of another episode of the ponder series. I have always felt that birds always instill a feeling of freedom and a sense of liberation, maybe because of the sight of the way they fly or could be a perception of a kind of deliverance they naturally effuse. But have we thought about the engineering behind their navigation and direction sense?. It’s truly a breathtaking sequence to ponder upon and I would like you to walk you through some interesting tidbits which probably you might have not previously thought about.
Right from college, I’ve been fascinated with biomimetics. My bachelor’s degree academic seminar that I presented at university was on this topic. Now, almost a decade from college, albeit my professional life is on an entirely different field, I’m still very inquisitive on this topic. I regularly try to read and keep up with the latest trends in this field. I’m intending to write more about the case studies I had done myself in this domain. By definition,
Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.
Biomimetic engineering methodologies basically study patterns or entities in nature and try to derive engineering applications in order to solve real-world problems and assist people. So, I came to read about bird navigation along these lines and I was actually blown away by how they worked. Most of the migratory bird species, who normally fly these long-distance flights have some sort of “body clocks” in them. They wonderfully assembly at a particular place and usually flock together. There are many amazing aspects such as how they save fat in their bodies during these long journeys. For instance, a hummingbird flying a 3000 km distance between Alaska and Hawaii would have to beat its wings 2.5 million times and as we know, the bird weighs only a few grams. The bird faces a danger of rising temperatures but if we look at it, their metabolic activities are designed in such a way that the body temperatures of birds rises to around 62 degree Celsius. The metabolic activity of hummingbirds is around 100 times that of elephants.
Birds also have special gliding and flight techniques to cater to these long journeys. They sometimes fly in a “V” shaped formation, which aeronautical engineers estimate to achieve a saving of 23% in the flock. (Aeronautical engineer Dietrich Hummel’s study)
Among other factors, another major one is the perception of direction which is mandatory for such long distance flights. Modern research has shown that the earth’s magnetic field is also used by the birds. The direction is determined by sensing the change in the earth’s magnetic field. Findings show that even a 2% difference can be assessed by birds. National Geographic has a good piece on this topic if you’d like to delve in more.
To summarize it, a lot of factors help birds with their navigation not limited to, the sun, sense of timing, location of the stars, ultraviolet rays, polarised light, sounds of very low frequency, sounds such as of waves and thunder coming from very far away, the magnetic field of the earth, gravity, meteorological assessment, favourable winds, characteristics of the ground below etc.
I’m not getting into the technicalities too much, but as we can see even something we seemingly deem as trivial such as the flight of birds is in fact on a divine plan and arrangement if we really think deep about it.