It was during the first hailstorm of the Covid virus pandemic, when conflicting information hit us every day about what to watch for, what to avoid, what would certainly kill you, and what would keep you safe. Sometimes it all came from the same source. Which in the end, for me at least, didn’t make me feel safer or more informed as some of my mates averred. The more information I received, the less secure I felt. So I ditched most of the information and lit out for a refuge out in the country. The hail stones were smaller out there it felt.
Anyways, I was up in my converted garage living life large. Mostly because my day consisted of getting up early, watching the sunrise over some canyon land and observing the birds out my window feeding on the seed I had thrown out there. Bird watching is much better than netflix. My latest count has thirty or more different bird family groups coming by to say hi. From the skittish two foot tall wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, to the tiny teacup sized bold and aggressive rufous hummingbird, toughius mothafugros.
There are recurring characters too. In late March and April it was twenty or thirty Juncos assaulting the ground for food. What a chatter this group of conventioneers put up! It was like they got drunk seeing the buffet of seeds on the ground and couldn’t get there fast enough to fill up their plates at the table. You would see juncos carrying off huge chunks of dinner and still stop to put a piece of that cake on their plate and then go over and pour on some of that flowing chocolate sauce from the buffet fountain. Oh no wait, that was a different convention I had been at. But you get the idea. It was chow time for these boys and girls. Yet I would still see bullies fly up and chase somebody else off a plot of ground like they had nothing better to do. Territory fighting just because they liked to do that. Mostly male bullies. Figure that.
There were also poignant love stories. It’s the beginning of May now and I watched the wrens screwing today. Much better than Netflix like I said. They had come back and moved into the birdhouse up in the pine tree just in view of my window. Tough little house wrens with a tail stuck almost straight up. Tiny little brown things until I saw them next to the bulk of a hummingbird and realized that while they’re no sumo wrestlers in the bird world but they ain’t small either. And fearless. I would find them, once they returned, flying everywhere around me. Flying under the shop crawl space, under my truck, under the unfinished porch twistling at me while I walked to and from the shop. Not at all shy about talking straight at me.
Now a quick glance at their beaks which are short stabby ones, alerts you at once to the notion that these are meat eaters. Or in the bird/ insect world grub or larvae eaters. Anyways, they have a sword on their mouth to attack and eat things. Not vegetarians these little tough guys, let’s just put it that way. I am remiss. Let me describe why I had these birds. I had advertised for them. It’s fairly simple. You need an area that is easy to see and get to, where predators like cats can’t hide and, you need a secret ingredient. Put out water. Birds love themselves some water. This is actually where a lot of the action goes on, is at the baths. The Romans got nothing on power grabs at the baths compared to the birds. Who knew that the robin, ooh look a robin, yeah that kind of gushing silly anthropomorphic response to this bully of the baths, is just that, a bully first class. I saw a little warbler or something, grey and yellow but it moved too fast for my eyes to figure out what kind of tweeter it was. This warbler couldn’t take the big baths, too much water and too many robins and starlings and jays hogging it. So he was taking a bath in a tiny little cup of water held in one of the rock steps down from the cabin to the ground.
A little tiny bit of water but enough for him to wash off the dust of travel and maybe a few mites or something. He would dip his head in and shake it all about like he was doing the hokey pokey and just generally cleaning up. Good job of it he was doing. When what happens? A dang robin comes over to claim this pond as his own and scares off the grey and yellow bird. Gone. Never saw him again. Now what’s the oooh-la-la-look-it’s-a-robin bastard land grabber gonna do with a teacup lake? Nothing. In fact he looked at it, scoffed once and took off back for the big bowl of water I had splashed into the rock baths. Just claiming territory. Reminds you of Republicans. Or Democrats. Or sport show guys. Always claiming, Well I thought of this before anybody else did. Yeah sure.
My point is that the birds love the water which come late spring gets a little harder to find in these parts. So there they were splashing and crapping in the water. A grand time was had by all. But back to those lovebirds, the wrens. Not much to it I must say. All that build up for me to issue that statement but it’s the truth of it. The two them flew out of the ranch style birdhouse which perched fifteen feet up a pine tree near the bath house, and she sat on a rock above him and they were whistling and calling at each other from two feet away when she wiggled all her behind feathers in an obvious, to him, come hither message. It wasn’t a bird bath wiggle. It was a jump up and fluff all my feathers, ain’t I a pretty one, kind of wink wink to the Billy Bird.
He, Billy below on the bush, could not contain himself any longer and flew up in a jiff above and behind her and in two seconds was done. I exaggerate. It didn’t take two seconds. That extra second makes it sound languorous like there was lots of moaning and rolling around on the satin sheets. Nah. It was a mutual connection, slam bam thank you sam, get off me I got eggs to lay or something like that. They were a couple no doubt but the time for flowers and candy was long over when it came down to the business of procreating. Got us a job to do here.
After it was done, the female wren moved about a bit, fluffed up some more of her fine feathers and then headed to the nest that they had been making for the past week to get back to work on it. Mr. Billy flew away cross eyed, I only imagine this, and sat there for a time on a rock near the baths. His work done. His usefulness over. He flew off to find some meal or grab a smoke and look out at his kingly duties and kingdom before him. Insert Tom Petty song, Good to be King, in the background of your mind. Yep, his job of providing meals was just starting.
Lots of activity to be seen but male display to attract the eye of the female is the subject of another note some day down the road. Let’s just say that men know how to strut their stuff so the women can just turn up their noses and walk away.
Put up a birdbath and throw out some seed. Better ‘n television if very much the same except for the swearing. Actually I thought I heard a blue jay say something the other day that might make a trucker blush. Something about some other jay trying to steal his Betty. Get that *%7# out of here. Another time, another bird story.
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