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Birds, Tattoos, and Tattoos of Birds

posted by Utah Birders Guest Blogger at
on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 

Firstly, I'd like to extend my gratitude to The Utah Birders for inviting me to write this guest post about birds and getting bird tattoos.

Since I began birding two and a half years ago, I've discovered that birds have much more to teach than what may be observed on a more literal level. Without ascribing human characteristics to these creatures (anthropomorphize is a mouthful to say), a lot can be learned about ourselves, others, and the world we live in. All in all, that's my primary reason for birding. I've known one day a particular species would speak to me and my birder's soul on a much deeper level. I recently 'ticked' my 300th lifer and each species has taught me a little bit more than I could have possibly imagined. Looking for birds is a great exercise in being present in the moment. Birds are an excellent conduit for reconnecting ourselves with the natural world and finding a sense of wonder. I've been on a quest to find MY bird. One that represents my personal character as an individual. Last month, I discovered that bird to be the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum).

With it's elegant, silky appearance and lovely high-pitched call, the Cedar Waxing is a easy bird to fall in love with. They are an attractive bird. A few key traits reveal a lot about why they are meaningful to me. First of all, they are very gentle birds. They are a highly social species who are almost always found in flocks. Cedar Waxwings are known to pass food to each other and become surfeited after feeding on fermented berries. For that, some call them the party bird! They're enthusiastic eaters and a bit overindulgent. Their unselfish manner during courtship/mating is also impressive. As one who loves to explore, their nomadic travel appeals to me. As a music maker, the Cedar Waxwing's song is a delight. I won't go into any further detail describing these birds. You can find good information about them at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cedar_Waxwing/id

Although I love spending time with birds, some of the best birding experiences have come from the people. 'Bird people' are as diverse and varied as the species we find. I've had the privilege of taking many school kids on field trips, met photographers/film crews, twitchers, hunters, land owners, college students, federal and state land managers, volunteers, ornithologists and other scientists, travelers, journalists, and all manner of birderwatchers/birders. I think my favorite is making birders out of non-birding folk. If I've got my binoculars handy (I ALWAYS do) and a bird comes by, anybody will take a look. Most of the time, those looks end in a smile. Enthusiasm is contagious. I'm fortunate enough to spend a lot of time looking for birds. The people I meet in the field have made me a better birder and make this hobby/sport of birding the more rewarding and life enriching. We share the same passion. In that, we are the same. I'm big on unity. I'm a social creature and so are Cedar Waxwings. I'll confess to being a bit of a 'lush' as well. Oh, and as pretty as a waxwing! (Joking of course)

November was a fine month for Cedar Waxwings in Northern Utah. I began noticing them in larger flocks just before Halloween. Good timing since they're a masked bird! During a snowstorm early in the month, we had an 'earful' show up in our front yard. We had long looks and throughout the day we saw 100's. My wife and I spent the afternoon studying them and delighted in the sighting. We studied their calls, flight patterns, and general appearance. By the end of the day, we were armchair waxwing experts. Since then, one of us has seen them every single day. Awesome! Most sightings have been incidental. As reported to Ubird, I had a particular abundant amount of waxwings appear in our yard just before Thanksgiving. It was then I knew Cedar Waxwings were MY bird and called my tattoo artist to make an appointment.

So on December 1, while the wind tore our city of Bountiful, Utah to bits, I headed to Salt Lake City to commit the Cedar Waxwing's image to my body. My wife had reported daily sightings of waxwings in Washington Square for several weeks. Since her office is across the street from the tattoo shop, I stopped in to visit and do some urban birding. Sure enough, two separate groups of waxwings came through and I walked across the street to get some ink. I have lot's of tattoos, but I've never become accustomed to the wretched pain involved. If it didn't hurt, more people would have them. An hour of pain for a lifetime's reward! Well worth it. Getting the tattoo was a simple process that took only an hour. My artist's name is CJ Fishburn. My wife and I have been getting tattoos from him for 7 years and hold the distinction of his longest return customers. His shop is Cathedral Tattoo located on 400 South in Salt Lake City. He also runs a non-profit for displaced pets, called 'Cause for Paws'. Something notable about this piece is CJ used a gun from 1943. I thought of the 1000's of people who must have been tattooed by the same gun. I thought of the 1000's of birds I've seen as a birder. I thought of all the birders I've met in the process. I thought of all the birders I hope to meet. And while I sat there retching, I told of the joys of discovery that birding provides. I'm thankful to have discovered birding and will wear this tattoo proudly!

Last May, just for kicks, I got a tattoo of a bird on my right forearm. It doesn't really hold any more meaning other than it's a cool symbol for my bird love. When people ask me why I get tattoos, I give them the same simple answer I give when asked why I spend so much time looking for birds.... because it's awesome!

Enjoy your enjoys
Shyloh Robinson


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Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Shyloh: Awesome post my friend. The waxing tattoo is very unique and turned out really nice. Thanks for adding your voice to the Utah Birders Blog, it is after all a blog for all of us, by all of us!

December 7, 2011 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

Great read - thanks for sharing.

December 7, 2011 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...


Good to meet you out at Farmington the other day.

Thanks for the post.


December 7, 2011 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Oliver Hansen said...

Cedar waxwing was one of my "hook" birds as a 13 yr old. Thanks for sharing.

December 9, 2011 at 1:52 PM  
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birds tattoos designs gives nice and nature feeling.....

November 30, 2012 at 6:20 PM  
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