Experiencing Biophilia on the Delaware Shore

9/16/2020, Fenwick Island, DE

A mild, summery morning, very still, mostly clear, temperatures in the low 70’s. My spouse Andrea and I have been relaxing in our friend’s modest bay-side cottage for a few days. We agree that it’s a perfect time for a kayak jaunt around the nearby sea marshes.

After careful preparation, we embark in our friends kayaks to explore Jefferson Creek, Lucky Island, and other enchanted spots in Little Assawoman Bay.

Gliding through the calm, marsh-bordering channel fronting our cottage, we spot movement in the branches of a distant tree. As we quietly approach the half-dead pine, we see that its many bare branches are supporting dozens of diverse waterfowl – gulls, egrets, and a band of ibises. We slow our kayaks and gaze in wonder at this confluence of waterbirds, sunning themselves on multiple levels of parallel branches. Binoculars bring them into clearer focus. We sit in silence, taking in the splendor of the sight.

The ibises are a rare find for us on the Delaware Shore, with their distinctively long, downward-curved-bills, four of them sitting adjacent. After a goodly time, a cool breeze rises and stirs many of the birds to fly elsewhere. The spirit of biophilia has ushered in its first enchantment.

Our spirits lifted by this first sighting, we paddle contently through the placid waters of Jefferson Creek on the far end of Lucky’s Island. This half-mile channel offers its own enchantment, with the overhanging tree branches creating a protected avenue of dappled sunlight and a plentiful population of diverse songbirds.

Emerging into the wide, lake-like expanse of the southern part of Assawoman Bay, we decide to hug the shoreline. Before long, we come upon a threesome of cormorants, sitting abreast, calmly sunning themselves. We’d seen cormorants for the first time twenty years ago in the sub-tropical waters of the Florida Gulf. With the steadily warming climate, we’d occasionally seen others in the lake waters of central Maryland where we live. Never before had we seen three together at rest. They seemed contentedly oblivious to our presence. By keeping our distance, we were able to keep them in view for a good long time.

The rest of our circumnavigation of Lucky’s Island was peaceful and uneventful. We arrived back at the cottage feeling relaxed, yet emotionally expanded at having had the good fortune to share time and close proximity with the local waterbirds.

A nature-loving friend of ours introduced us to the term “biophilia” some years ago. It was brought into common parlance by the renowned entomologist E.O. Wilson in a book by the same name. Wilson defines “biophilia” as “an innate love for the natural world felt universally by humankind; an urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.

The good feeling my wife and I shared had to do with feeling a part of the greater natural world in which we live. That expanded feeling included wonder, admiration, respect, and gratitude. We felt somehow privileged that the natural world had opened its doors to us so bounteously.

John Bayerl (as “recollected in tranquility” on Solstice Day, 12/21/2020)

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