By RENEE FITE
What could people discover by talking to the animals like Dr. Dolittle?
An opportunity to learn what birds are saying about people is coming up in April, with the first of four seasonal immersion workshops on the language of the birds. The weekend-long seminars will be held at the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge in Colcord.
Birds give direct feedback on how human behavior is perceived by the natural world. By developing instinctive awareness and sensitivity to birds, people can discover their own connection with the mysteries unfolding around them.
David Gahn, M.D., commander for the U.S. Public Health Service at the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital, has learned birds have an amazing system of communication with all the animals in their environment, both through song and activity.
“Simple observation of the way birds are acting and singing can tell you about what is happening around you, the approach of a cat or a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree, or someone walking down the path,” Gahn said.
Over the centuries, human culture has separated from nature, he said.
“We spend most of our lives moving from one climate-controlled building to another, and we’ve become strangers to all the animals and plants,” Gahn said.
Bird language offers a simple path to re-establishing that connection.
“Like anything, the process takes practice, study, and patience, but it can be done anywhere from deep in the forest of a wildlife refuge to your back yard in suburbia,” Gahn said.
Participants can have an accelerated learning journey with committed mentors and mentees, and have the chance to practice one of the most effective core routines of nature connection, bird language. People can develop deep personal relationships with wildlife and the land; cultivate instinctive awareness and deep listening skills; experience and practice the “art of questioning” as a mentoring tool; and learn how to stay invisible to get closer to wildlife.
Rick Bedsworth, a practitioner of bird language for more than two decades, and a contributor to Jon Young’s Backyard Bird Language Series, will serve as a guest facilitator.
Bedworth’s nature connection began to develop in 1992 when he started reading books by “The Tracker,” Tom Brown Jr. Bedworth identified a piece of conservation ground of 400 acres near his home as his nature study area, where he has honed his bird-watching skills.
Attending a course at Tom Brown’s Tracker School, Bedworth met Jon Young, and his mentoring began. Young taught Bedworth of the importance of narrowing down his 400-acre study area to a smaller place he could get to know intimately. Within this study area, Bedworth was asked to find an “anchor point” – a particular tree that would become his regular sit spot.
Since 1995, Bedworth has had this anchor point, where he goes almost on a daily basis. Developing a connection with his spot, Bedworth struggled to learn how to track, due to the high amounts of vegetation and leaf litter. When he found tracking instructor Joel Hardin, his battles with learning were over. The tutelage has become a lifelong friendship, and Bedworth has recently become a senior adviser with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services.
Real-life horse whisperers, and those who work with animals, can easily determine the mood and temperament of animals. People who study wildlife in its natural habitat can also read the signs and sounds of the animals. The ability to understand the language of birds has been a survival tool for hunter-gatherer societies around the world.
“Deep listening,” which developed through the practice of bird language, allows the observer to locate other humans, predators and wildlife. How to move through the landscape “invisibly” is a skill those attending the workshop will learn. Participants will learn techniques to see and experience wildlife unobserved.
The workshop cost is $395 per person and includes food and camping for four weekends. The Ozark Bird Language Immersion has two parts: four weekend workshops, at the Ozark Plateau NWR, and a 10-month Virtual Village Mentoring experience.
For full immersion – and to take advantage of guest facilitator Bedsworth – participants must sign up for both the workshops and language immersion. Registration ends March 29. There are opportunities for 16 participants to immerse in a 10-month initial experience, with the potential of a continued commitment each year. Virtual Village, the OBLI Mentoring Call Series, is $250 per participant.
Participants will be given monthly homework and challenges to deepen their awareness and bird language skills in their own backyards.
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