Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Bird On The Side



A lot of you have discovered birds since you've been holed up at home, locked down with your mandatory family people. It's a natural step. "I'm going to look at birds," you say, on your way out the door, having run out of other pretexts, and nobody minds seeing you go. And then you're out there. Might as well look at birds.

I was already looking at birds. What I'm doing for fun now, a half-year in, is looking at really ratty-ass birds. Jeez, they look sorry. Some of them, like the crows, seem to be properly embarrassed by the state of their wardrobe. We have a house finch with two unshed old feathers sticking up on her head like horns. What a crew. Patchy-bald and tufted as a sprouted potato: a lot of them look like an old weedy parking lot. You won't catch me looking like that. As long as I stay indoors.



All right, I'm no prize either. I'm told I can get a haircut now without worrying about being dead in a month, but I haven't done it yet. As a result I can now put all my hair in a ponytail again. Not the sort you might see on a pony--we're more in toilet-brush territory. I could scour out a roasting pan with it, maybe.

Studley Windowson, my chickadee, though not vain, is not coming around like he used to. He's good for a couple mealworms a day and thank you very much, but he isn't stalking us at the window or leaving long whiny voicemails. His kids are on their own.

I must here report that Marge and Studley got a second brood going, in July! I'm not kidding. I looked it up and they're totally not supposed to do that, but Marge must have been impressed with his prowess as a mealworm provider--our little secret--and sure enough that nest box was peeping again. And little diaper sacks were coming out of it. But fully realized birds? I never saw a one, and can't report that this batch was a success. And yet. The Studmeister! What a neat bird.

And I wouldn't want to do anything to hurt his feelings, but here's the deal. The Crow Project of at least ten years remains a bust. Dave has done his best to entice a personal crow and gotten absolutely nowhere. Our crows do not give one goopy shit about us. Everyone on the planet of any spiritual worth has their own crow but not us. However. Their cousins the scrub jays are looking like contenders. They like peanuts, and we have peanuts. We're tossing them ever closer to us with some success. They're still cautious, unlike their relatives, the gray jays. If you go into the high woods emitting so much as a cookie molecule, you will shortly be encrusted with gray jays. We think our city jays are coming around, though, and it's fun to watch them dart in and blast off like little jet-powered tyrannosaurs. They are superb at hopping, and watching a good hoppity bird hop is a sure cure for the COVID blues. 

Problem is, I don't want Studley to see me doing it.



Studley hates jays. I hate jays on Studley's behalf. I wouldn't even look at a jay after the Nuthatch Fiasco of Ought-Sixteen. Scrub jays act like they have no enemies (or peers). But the other day a bunch of them detonated out of the neighbor's plum tree followed very closely by a hawk. That probably cheered Studley up no end. Take that, screech-heads!

But, you know? The screech-heads are fun to watch. And I know my chickadee. I can pick out his tiny little chip-note anywhere on the block. It sticks out like an errant apostrophe. I listen, I wait, and when the punctuation is right, down goes the peanut. Don't tell.

22 comments:

  1. Ratty-ass birds? I don't know how they're even surviving in all this smoke. You'd think they'd be plummeting from the sky, trailing soot, if not actually smouldering.

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  2. Scrub jays are such pretty things; but, here in my part of the world, we don't see them. However: The other day I was up on an extension ladder, fully extended (myself) to replace a flood light bulb when a Blue jay swooped behind me, shrieking into my ear. That was a startle that got my heart pumping and made me ask what an 82-year-old woman is doing replacing flood light bulbs. Usually, around here, if I hear something that sounds sort of like a Blue jay, it's a Red-shouldered hawk. Both are noisy!

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    1. Blue jays are a lot nattier than scrub jays. But it sounds like they're both kind of assholes some of the time.

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  3. Here in Arizona we don't get the colorful birds...just dull gray ones..all of them. You hate blue jays, I don't like pigions!

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    1. I don't hate jays at all. But I don't much care for pigeons either. All flappity-flappity and woo woo.

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  4. Oh yes.
    I am proud to recognise individual birds that visit. Even in their ratty state they have immense charm and photograph better than I do.
    And yes, I feel guilty feeding some of them while others are looking. Territory wars have erupted over my head and hand. Which makes me feel incredibly privileged. I AM incredibly privileged.

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  5. I’d like my own personal bird of any sort to prove my spiritual prowess. A starling will do. But even my parakeet is terrified of me.

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    1. I once had a dud parakeet. Now I can't even believe I was okay with caging a bird! Even that bird.

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  6. I’d like my own personal bird of any sort to prove my spiritual prowess. A starling will do. But even my parakeet is terrified of me.

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  7. I've never seen a scrub jay. He is really pretty!

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  8. I grew up hating blue jays. They would destroy the swallows nests or so my dad said. I believe there was an air rifle involved...

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    1. My first scrub jay observation was the racket one was making bashing a mouse against the gutter. Four years ago a jay took off with one of my baby nuthatches on its maiden flight, right in front of the parents. It's been a complicated relationship, scrub jays and me.

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  9. I should probably try to tame a crow, but they will be leaving soon. Maybe the ravens are amenable to a human friend. Studly really lives up to his name.

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  10. Tyty and Grandad had a pair of jays that would come and eat peanuts right on our hands. Herman and Hermione. I was just a kid and that was the best. If i was a chickadee i wouldn't trust them.

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    1. I'm working on that peanuts-from-the-hand bit.

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    2. I remember that when I was a wee tyke (about 4 or so), I used to feed squirrels peanuts from my hand. I was never a patient person, so they must have come to me right away, maybe recognizing that I was a mere baby. Needless to say, neither squirrels nor birds will come to my hand anymore -- even for peanuts. Of course, that may be because I yell at them for taking a single bite out of my tomatoes and then leaving them by the back door for me to find. Passive-aggressive bastards.

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    3. What is it with squirrels and their tomato-taking and chomping? Just a bite or two out of each. I'm down to my last BLT.

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  11. I do hope Marge and Studley's second brood made it. That blue bird pictured is a Scrub Jay? He's pretty.

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    1. 'Tis. I don't think the second brood was successful. One of these days I'll take down the nest box to clean it and see if there are any clues.

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