Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blue-Footed Booby




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Imagine a world in which when we walk by, the birds don't fly to a bush further off and hide in the branches, the field mice and chipmonks don't scamper beneath rocks and fish don't shy away as we near the water.  Imagine a world where other animals, innocent of fear, merely pause at our approach and look back in innocent wonder at the odd new creatures with the clicking boxes visiting among them, strangers in paradise.

CHARLES DARWIN: "I will conclude my description of the natural history of these islands by giving an account of the extreme tameness of the birds. This disposition is common to all terrestrial species; namely to the mocking thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant flycatchers, the dove, and common buzzard. All of them are often approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree. One day whilst lying down, a mockingthrush alighted on the edge of a pitcher made of a shell of a tortoise, which I held in my hand, and began very quietly to sip the water. It allowed me to lift it from the ground whilst seated on the vessel. I often tried, and very nearly succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs. Formerly, the birds appear to have been even tamer than at present. Cowley (in the year 1684) says that the 'turtledoves were so tame that they would often alight on our hats and arms, so as that we could take them alive, they not fearing man until such time as some of our company did fire at them, whereby they were rendered more shy.' ...It is surprising that they have not become wilder, for these islands in the last hundred and fifty years have been frequented by buccaneers and whalers; and the sailors, wandering through the wood in search of tortoises, always take cruel delight in knocking down the little birds.  These birds, although still more persecuted, do not readily become wild. In Charles Island, which had been colonized about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with a switch in his hand, with which he killed the little doves and finches as they came to drink. He had already procured a little heap of them for his dinner, and he said that he had constantly been in the habit of waiting by this well for the same purpose. It would seem that the birds of this archipeligo, not having as yet learnt that man is a more dangerous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus [local iguana], disregard him, in the same manner as in England shy birds such as magpies disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields."