OGUNQUIT – Dan Hansche turned from his makeshift drawing board in the barn at Hilton-Winn Farm and posed the most basic question of the day to the adult students:

“What caused the bird to move from the dangerosity?” Hansche asked with early morning zest.

“He likes to make up words,” colleague Dan Gardoqui quipped.

Be that as it may, the course last week on bird language taught by Hansche and Gardoqui was not made up.

The intense study of bird behavior and language has been the focus of small groups of naturalists across the country for only about 12 years, but it is an art and a practice that goes back centuries, said Gardoqui, owner of White Pine Programs, where the course was offered.

“Birds respond in certain ways. Interpreting that can be surprising. I was skeptical at first. But it is centered in science,” said Gardoqui, a national leader in the field of bird language.

Gardoqui has taught courses on bird language in day-long seminars for years. Last week’s five-day intensive program was the second in two years.

The new popularity in the bird language course comes at a time when the subject is getting more recognition.

The first guidebook on the subject, “What the Robin Knows,” which was written by Jon Young and researched by Gardoqui, was just published.

And the Boston Museum of Science has an exhibit on the subject. Titled “A Bird’s World,” the interactive exhibit teaches viewers how easily they miss obvious messages from birds expressed in songs, alarm calls, aggressive calls and begging calls.

“We notice people having arguments, and if we walk into their space, we feel the tension. But that is happening all around us with birds, and it’s perceivable if we practice being aware of birds,” said Frank Grindrod, a teacher in Massachusetts who attended the course last week.

Gardoqui’s class started at dawn with a two-hour long “sit,” in which members of two groups took notes on everything around them in a field. Then they pooled their observations on a colorful map, showing the species of birds, the kinds of calls heard, and other disturbances happening around the birds.

The map showing bird activity during the two-hour window painted a picture of the wildlife interaction in the field after dawn.

The result after a few days of intense study was a greater awareness of the natural environment, even by the most astute naturalists.

“It’s been done for generations by indigenous people, but it’s only now that we’re really getting a handle on us as a community, including the (natural) world around us,” Grindrod said. “It’s a real gift for me to bring this back to my community. How often do we think about birds as our neighbors, and as individuals? But really every being is our neighbor.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: Flemingpph


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