Take time to look up, take care to look down
I can’t remember the first time when I saw a Malaysian Night Heron, but I know that it was in Taipei. They are called Malaysian Night Herons because they are normally seen out feeding in nearby parks in the evening, but just as “morning sickness” could last the whole day for some women, Malaysian Night Herons are also not averse to feeding during the day.
This is really the bird that started my interest in birds, or what I like to call the “gateway” bird. They aren’t the rarest of birds in Taipei, but I never even knew of this bird’s existence before coming to Taiwan. Growing up in Virginia cardinals, blue jays, robins, and even the occasional humming bird were commonplace. They are beautiful birds, and if I saw one of these birds here now, I’d probably think of it as exotic and wonder why and how it arrived here.
The first time I saw a Malaysian Night Heron in Taipei it was at night in a nearby park. Unabashedly unafraid of people, there is something about the way that these birds move that almost hypnotises me as I watch them hunting. They slowly move their necks until they are completely motionless, their beaks pointed at the ground like a bow and arrow ready to strike at some unseen foe. With a lightning speed, they then dart at the ground and pull up some unsuspecting insect, lizard, or worm from the Earth. The neck continues to dance in a wave-like manner as they swallow their prey and begin the search again.
Recently on another volunteer expedition and training to Guandu Nature Park 關渡自然公園 I came across the above signage and barriers to prevent passersby of walking under a nest for one of these birds. I slowly backed up and looked up at the juvenile in the nest, almost too big for the pile of sticks from my vantage point. Even though it was high up in the tree, I could make out its spots to indicate that it was still quite young.
As I stood there looking up at the nest, I was once again thankful to be living in a place like Taipei, and visiting a park such as Guandu where people take the time and care to put up such a thoughtful sign. This year continues to be filled with upheaval in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the general anti-racial movement that is taking place globally. Yet, there are still birds being born. Life continues, fragile as an eggshell in a nest. Signs such as this one help reinforce the small joys in life which are happening each and every day. Sometimes we just have to take time to look up, or care to look down so that we can notice these detailed joys as they enter our lives.