The earliest versions of this notion pre-date the first publication of the expression in 1670 (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/a-bird-in-the-hand.html). I adopt my own interpretation here to serve my own purposes. Holding a wild bird in one’s hand exponentially increases the value of experience and appreciation gained from observing a wild bird in a bush through one’s binoculars.
Let me explain. I spent three weeks volunteering with Yosemite National Park’s Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program administered by the Institute for Bird Populations. What an honor! Here is the synopsis from their web page:
“Created in 1989 and coordinated by The Institute for Bird Populations, MAPS is a cooperative effort among public agencies, private organizations, and individual bird banders across North America to operate a continent-wide network of now over 500 constant-effort mist netting stations for the long-term monitoring of the vital rates of more than 100 landbird species. These critical data are being used in conjunction with avian population trend data, station-specific and landscape-level habitat data, and spatially explicit weather data to formulate management actions and conservation strategies to reverse population declines in both year-round resident and migratory landbirds.”
The first ever MAPS station was established in Yosemite at Hodgdon Meadow where our base camp was. Today there are 6 stations through out the park all associated with mid elevation meadows and their glorious environs. We were drenched in wildflowers of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Where water met meadow and meadow met forest wild life abounded. And those birds! To learn from and observe a wild bird up close and personal is a precious experience.
My lens is filtered with 12 seasons as a Ranger Naturalist in Yosemite National Park as well as 18 years following birds around California. My agenda was as much selfish as it was to participate in the conservation efforts that are benefiting Sierra Nevada birds and their park resources. To see up close the developing golden-crown of a Golden-crowned kinglet or the gorget of a Rufous Hummingbird garners a great appreciation for these little dinosaurs. When you befriend a fellow creature you tend to be an advocate for its equal right to exist. This alone can be a powerful conservation tool that only adds to the knowledge gained from over 20 years of scientific research.
I will also add that the small group of researchers in charge of this seasons data collection where refreshing to work with. I have worked in many capacities in many bureaucracies with many different people over many years. This young crew has a work ethic often missing in the young people I have experienced more regularly let alone some of the “old” people I also work with more regularly. Their attention to detail, commitment to the rigors of science, and the integrity with which they show the birds was outstanding.
In no way do my words or sentiment intend to represent IBP or Yosemite National Park. But I do encourage you to follow the link above and read more for yourself about the efforts and discoveries being made in the name of bird and earth conservation.