Friday, August 16, 2013

Backyard Bird Triptych

Scene One

These days there is a proliferation of goldfinches in the backyard. They are affectionately known as “goldies” at our house. When a squirrel is not hugging the nyger feeder, hanging upside down and inhaling the seed through the tiny portholes, these frisky yellow birds vie for a perch. As autumn approaches and the daylight wanes, these bright presences bring cheer. Lying on the hammock Sunday afternoon, I gazed up at the sky. A flock of goldies bounded and flashed across that blue expanse, singing all the way—“potato chips, potato chips, potato chips!”

Scene Two

The gray feathers and bits of down are strewn across the ground underneath the bird feeder—the remains of a Mourning Dove. Years ago, I watched from the window as a sharp-shinned hawk perched stock still on the back fence. A mourning dove, foraging on the ground, flew off in a whistling whirr of wings. A split second later, the dove disappeared in a cloud of feathers falling to earth. Unwitnessed, I suspect this bird met the same fate. The backyard is its own cosmos, life and death unfolding everyday.

Scene Three

There’s a Blue Jay in our backyard that thinks he’s a hawk. He announces his arrival with the downward slurred keer-r-r of a Red-tailed hawk. I was fooled the first few times. I know now that, when I look out the window, I’ll see a crested blue bird bounding among the feeders and not a raptor. Peterson calls the jay a showy, noisy bird and Sibley an expert mimic. Perhaps that’s the point. Other birds scram when he cries out hawk-like, descending to the roof of the shed. The feast is spread out before him. He can dine alone.  

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