In addition to birds, it’s no secret that my family loves rocks. It’s easy to dismiss a rock as, well, just a rock. But think about it: with a few exceptions (fresh volcanic pumice, for instance), every rock is a piece of ancient history. So ancient that our human minds can’t fully comprehend the life cycle of a rock. Yes, I get it, rocks aren’t alive, but every rock you have ever held or walked upon has undergone so much. Maybe it was once subjected to such intense heat and pressure that it liquefied. Maybe it was once on the ocean floor, built up by a slow accumulation of diatoms and tiny pieces of coral. Maybe it was once engulfed by glacial ice and released hundreds of miles away in a flood of melt-water. A rock might be in-animate, but it has an inception and a time-line of adventures, so I think the “life-cycle” phrase is apt!
Rocks are simultaneously part of the past, and an important part of the present. The type of rock (“parent material”) that soil formed from influences its grain size and chemistry—qualities that go on to impact the type of plants that can grow in it which, in turn, influence the distribution of animal communities. Many bird species, from waterfowl to emus and ostriches, and turkeys and grouse, intentionally swallow rocks. These rocks are referred to as gastroliths, and they stay in the bird’s gizzard, where they help grind up hard-to digest food, such as nuts and seeds. Many reptiles, amphibians, and even a few mammals, such as seals, have gastroliths too. As a side note, this is the reason why lead fishing sinkers are so dangerous to loons and other waterfowl; birds swallow sinkers, thinking they are benign rocks but, when the sinkers accumulate in the gizzard, they slowly poison the bird.
Beyond being ecologically-important time-capsules, rocks are often beautiful to look at and interesting to hold. So beautiful and interesting, in fact, that rocks have a tendency to find their ways into pockets and tote-bags, lovingly cleaned or polished, and set to rest on mantles and bookshelves.
OR, they can be used in art! Rocks, like clouds, are the perfect fodder for a creative mind. Sometimes you’ll pick up a rock and immediately recognize it: I have a rock that I picked up who-knows-where, and I swear it looks exactly like a slightly-smooshed piece of a seaweed-wrapped sushi roll. Other rocks require more of a creative eye. But once you let your mind relax, you might be surprised at what you see! For instance, birds. Flocks and flocks of birds J
After a recent rock-hunting expedition, my family and I had some fun! A clear multi-purpose caulk-style adhesive worked surprisingly well at sticking the rocks to paper and to each other. We used twigs for the branches, triangles cut from leaves for bills, and a dab of black paint (from the tip of a toothpick) for eyes.
This is an example of a craft that is quick and easy, but with great pay-off! I’m thrilled with our little bird families (and our other creations!), and think they’ll look absolutely charming in frames.