Monday, December 13, 2010

Hey, Hawk!

"You thief, you! Get outta there!" I think it was a Cooper's hawk---horizontal tail stripes, no red shoulder, no red tail, medium sized. It would not be deterred, no matter how loud or close I was, which was only a few giant steps from the tree where it was ravaging a squirrel's nest--- and no matter how many indignant house finches flitted around in the same tree scolding.

Silent it came at first, unbeknownst to me. I was fluffing bows on window-wreaths across the front of the house, making my own noise in the leaves underfoot, when I became aware of much small bird chatter in the Bradford pear tree above and behind my left shoulder---the kind of chatter that usually signals trouble in birdworld. I can't always discover the source of the trouble, but this time it was easy. By now all the leaves have fallen, so the hawk, the nest, and at least a dozen fiery red house finches were clearly visible.

When the shouting didn't work I tried to stare it down. It stopped long enough to look down on me, but showed not a care. The finches and I were no threat---they for their size, me because I was bound to the ground. I was surprised at the pluck of the housefinches, actually, and wondered why they cared about a squirrel's nest. But I felt solidarity with them as I tried to shoo this hawk away. Its arrogant response was to hop to the edge of the nest to stab at the interior with its talons, far above my reach. Slap slap slap. Rattle, rattle, rattling in the dry leaves of the nest---while we watched!

Never mind the natural order of the Georgia ecosystem, the food-chain and all, or that our yard is overrun with squirrels. It was the idea of tearing up someone else's nest in broad daylight amid the righteous outcries of the little guys that agitated me. I'm tempted to make a political comparison, but have sworn to keep politics out of this blog. So make of it what you will. A better ending to the post would be to quote the Buddhist notion my daughter encourages.

"Know that it is, but do not suffer from it."

Thank you, Sarah. It works for indignations large and small. dkm

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Birdly Bird

Big excitement in the limited birding world of this backyard spectator. A single wood thrush. First sighting ever. December 9, 2010, 8:30am. Temperature below freezing, in the 20s. Seems late for migrating. Staying here for the winter? Cinnamon brown head, plainer brown back, distinctively spotted breast, round fat body, long straight beak, pretty pink feet. Foraging for sunflower seeds on the deck floor beneath the feeder. Stayed a long time, hopping around, showing herself at all angles, flipping oak leaves around, unaware of my presence, just four feet away on the other side of the glass. She held me captive for the duration of her visit. An excellent and birdly bird.

8:30-9:00 seems to be the current peak time for coming to the feeder. Other birds at feeder this morning between 8:30 & 9:00: male and female cardinals, house finches, carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, brown-headed nuthatches, whitebreasted nuthatches, my bluebirds (calloo callay), downy woodpeckers, a single female towhee. dkm

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mystery Character . . .

Somebody spent the night in the garden shed for real, and I did NOT stick around to find out who.

I carried my copper bucket full of kitchen scraps out to the compost heap this morning. When I took the pitchfork off its hook just inside the shed door, I accidentally bumped it hard against the wall. Came a softish low sounding groan from the back of the shed that lasted almost two seconds.

This shed, I ought to say, is rickety, and one of these days a small bump will be the one that knocks it over. Assuming the first groan was the shed itself, or some of its contents, shifting as a result of the bump, I deliberately knocked it again to confirm. Came another delayed groan, decidedly animal in nature. Surely not, I thought.

I buried the scraps and returned the fork to its hook. Mooaaaan. I knocked again. Came the moan again. Four incidents of obvious cause and effect were enough for me. I left fast, not wanting to see, hear, or know who was waking up---be it cat, fox, possum, or worse. The mercury showed below the freezing line. Let the creature stay warm and undisturbed. I'd make a terrible farmer.

This, by the way, is a repeat of a similar incident that inspired the beginning of my current manuscript nearly six years ago. dkm