Day 41 - Discovering bird brains

— 4 minute read


There are days when you're halfway through yoga and feel so mentally drained that you can't move out from the child's pose and tears start flowing the opposite direction towards your forehead. The absurdity of the river of tears flowing upstream and the lack of a valid reason for crying strike you at the same time. Today was one of those days.

Fortunately, as I write now, I'm pretty much back to my regular upright self, with no tears flowing upwards or downwards. The crying helped release a pressure valve, as did a candid conversation with a friend, where I expressed what needed to be expressed (but was suppressed for a long time before). Sometimes you just have to be yourself.

I'm working on transitioning my media consumption from doom scrolling news sites and mindless Instagram use to something that's more fulfilling and less draining. Although the realisation about junk media consumption had been there since a couple of weeks, I think the last straws that broke the camel's back were the media hysteria around Trump's regrettable disinfectant debacle and some ads that disturbed me on the Instagram app on my phone.

I am better than this. I can stop voluntarily subjecting myself to the 24-hour news cycle where toxic politics becomes entertainment, where the signal is drowned out by the noise, and where I slowly lose faith in humanity because of high profile idiots. I can regulate my social media use to limit the effects of corporate surveillance on me, knowing what I know about the attention economy and surveillance capitalism.

So my current solutions are: books, and no more scrolling on the mobile Instagram app.

Right now I'm parallel-reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, depending on the mood. Incidentally both titles are related to birds - Pigeon English and The Genius of Birds. Whenever I feel the need to entertain myself I reach out for a book instead of the phone. Already I feel better. Also, I bought eight books online yesterday, and they will arrive within the week.

On Instagram, I've made the resolution to not use the phone app anymore. I can browse my feed on my computer, which has an ad blocker, which makes the experience much better. Not using mobile also cuts off the compulsive scrolling whenever I'm not at my computer. I'm still keeping the app to upload my sketches but that's the only function that I will use from now.

I'm still reading news and I'm still using Instagram. But changing the system of how I do it will change the behaviour to be more mindful. That is the goal.

Speaking of the book that I'm reading, The Genius of Birds, it is such a riveting read and I'm glad I've finally picked it up again after some years. One of the studies cited inside that I found to be inspiring was done by Louis Lefebvre who studies bird intelligence. He went through thousands of past studies looking for records of unusual bird behaviour (such as birds using tools or exploiting novel opportunities to get food) to demonstrate innovativeness in birds, and came up with a bird IQ scale of sorts. On top of the smartest birds known are corvids (crows and ravens), together with parrots. The not-so-innovative include quails, ostriches, bustards, turkeys, and nightjars. Apparently owls were not included in this study because they're nocturnal and not regularly seen.

An example of innovative behaviour was vultures that waited beside minefields so that they could feast on exploded grazers (like gazelles) who accidentally wandered into the minefields and detonated mines.

Another case, in the chapter that I'm reading now on the communication systems of birds, is the chickadee which has a call of danger "chickadee-dee-dee-dee..." with the number of "dee's" called out depending on how dangerous the predator is. The fewer "dees" the more dangerous the predator. It is so reliable that other animals have also learnt to listen to the warnings.

Just fascinating.

On food security news the microgreens I ordered arrived a few days ago, and I transplanted some of the sprouts yesterday to see if they will grow. I have now the sprouts of spinach, beetroot, kale, rocket, sunflower, and peas in pots. Will report back.