Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lesson from the birds and the bees…

No, no… You thought this was a post about “those” birds and bees!
The idea of the birds and the bees came about as I looked up while having a cup of coffee at my workplace’s garden.
I spotted a beehive.
Next to it was a Common Myna on a tree branch guarding its nest.
Both were doing what they do, living side-by-side and coexisting.
It brought to mind a few lines in Samuel Coleridge’s sonnet “Work Without Hope,” how fascinating it is to observe nature at work and to set up a contrast between the busy natural world and us.
Coleridge wrote in 1825:
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair — 
The bees are stirring — birds are on the wing…
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing, 
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing… 
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, 
And Hope without an object cannot live.
For without hope, there can never be success.
Traditionally, the birds and the bees is a metaphorical story sometimes told to children in an attempt to explain the mechanics and good consequences of sexual intercourse through reference to easily observed natural events.
This was satirized in The Simpsons cartoon show, in the episode Homer vs. Patty and Selma that was first broadcast in February 1995 (S6, Ep. 17). The episode includes a scene featuring 10-year-old Bart Simpson in happy mood:
Bart: What a day, eh, Milhouse? The sun is out, birds are singing, bees are trying to have sex with them -- as is my understanding...
Oddly for such a common saying, the origin of this phrase is uncertain. Coleridge’s poem is most often cited as making the link between birds and bees and human sexuality.
So, who coined and first used “the birds and the bees” as the generic name for euphemistic sex education?Do you know?

But back to my cup of coffee…
The  Common Myna
The Myna is a very “common” bird in Dubai and the UAE. It is an omnivorous with a strong territorial instinct that has adapted extremely well to urban environments.
I know firsthand how territorial it is. I’ve been attacked by it several times on my morning run when passing under a tree where it was nesting. The one at work also dives down as I pass, supposedly protecting its nest too.
It is not a pretty bird. It is almost violent and doesn’t sing all that well, but it is said to be an important motif in Indian culture and appears both in Sanskrit and Prakrit literature.
The Common Myna’s calls include croaks, squawks, chirps, clicks and whistles, and the bird often fluffs its feathers and bobs its head in “singing.” It screeches warnings to its mate or other birds in cases of predators in proximity or when it is about to take off flying.
Common Mynas are believed to pair for life. They breed through much of the year depending on the location. It is a hollow-nesting species in trees or artificially on buildings, in recessed windowsills or low eaves.
The pair I was observing has nested in a recessed vent in the wall of the villa.
The range of the Common Myna is increasing at such a rapid rate that in 2000 the IUCN Species Survival Commission declared it one of the world's most invasive species and one of only three birds (the other two being the Red-vented bulbul and European Starling) in the top 100 species that pose an impact to biodiversity, agriculture and human interests. Its aggressive behavior is considered to contribute to its success as an invasive species.

As I finished my coffee while watching the Mynas having their afternoon bath, I didn’t like them any better, but I had to admire their resourcefulness, tolerance and coexistence with the bees.
It was a good lesson for the day.