Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Losing touch with the natural

Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis): photo courtesy of Richard Yu.

In an article in today's Taipei Times I noticed a few lines that got me thinking. Strangely, they had been tacked onto the end of an article where they really didn't seem to fit with the theme of the article. The article is titled Chen Chu calls for increased campus security. Chen Chu (³¯µâ) is the mayor of Kaohsiung and the article is about how the city's Education Bureau had overlooked the importance of resolving the problem of bullying on campuses.

These few lines tacked onto the end of the article got me thinking: "In other news, the city's Economic Development Bureau urged residents of Dapingding (¤j©W³») to learn to live in harmony with the Caprimulgus affinis [Savanna Nightjar] after residents complained about the noise made by the birds.

Bureau director-general Liu Hsin-cheng (¼BÄÉ¥¿) said an increasing number of the rare birds, commonly known as the Savanna Nightjar, had migrated to urban areas in recent years.

Many Siaogang District (¤p´ä) residents had complained about having difficulty sleeping because of the constant chirping made by the birds during the mating season, Liu said.

Saying that the mating season would last through August, Liu urged residents to strike a balance between their lives and protection of the birds.

Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis is a common nocturnal bird found on Taiwan's lowlands. Savanna Nightjar isn't rare as the article claims it is. Over the past decade, Savanna Nightjar have taken to roosting on the roofs of houses in urban areas and their high-pitched twee-it call is a common night sound in most towns and cities along Taiwan's western lowlands. For some reason the call of the Savanna Nightjar seems to disturb many people.

My old copy of Lonely Planet: Taiwan makes a point about the noisy nature of Taiwanese society: "Renao-It's hard to translate into English, but renao means something like 'lively', 'festive', 'happy' and 'noisy' - especially 'noisy'. Many Taiwanese seem immune to noise. You'll notice that department stores and restaurants have background music blaring at around 100 decibels. This is used to attract customers..." Indeed Taiwan is very noisy. Firecrackers going off at all hours. Countless KTVs. Fleets of noisy little blue vans with loudspeakers advertising wares or the virtues of political candidates at any time or place. Cages of roosters announcing the dawn. With all this constant din and racket it's amazing that the natural call of a wild bird provokes such an outcry. It seems that for many they have so lost touch with natural sound that when they hear it it sounds strange and out of place. Surely the call of the Savanna Nightjar is nothing like the deafening din of firecrackers and loudspeakers. Have KTVs, loudspeakers and firecrackers become so natural to us that we don't even hear the noise? Perhaps this is why we sit back and destroy areas of natural beauty like the Huben-Hushan forests. Forests are alien to us. Concrete isn't. So really, who needs to change?...and Oh, Savanna Nightjars live in Hushan, too.

Click to listen to a Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis call.

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