As I faced the prospect of writing a post for this week, I realized I had no taste for opining. On anything. Politics and the news depress me to a point where I can’t even muster up a decent snark, for that would require thought, and thinking about the myriad ways human beings show individual and institutional contempt for their fellows just makes me want to pull a blankie over my head and cry.
So today I want to talk to you about my birds.
“My birds” are those birds that frequent my personal yard, and do so often enough that I have actually made the effort to learn their names from people who are actually knowledgeable about birds. Because I, in fact, am not. While I am fortunate to know people who can identify birds by genus and species based on a flash of a wing, my bird-watching activities are largely limited to “Oh, isn’t that one pretty?”
At my house, we are frequented by house finches, little birds with red heads that dilute into brown at the neck. I like them. We have the ubiquitous mourning doves, nature’s stupidest bird. These do not officially count as “my birds,” as I have no love for them at all. They are goofy, messy, loud, and—did I mention?—dumb as a box of hair. Mostly, they screw a lot and aren’t good for anything. They’re much like frat boys in that way.
We get Gambel’s quail running along the tops of the walls that surround our yard, calling to their spouses and kids with their distinctive cry. On very rare occasions, they bring their babies with them, but not this year. We have cactus wrens that hop around the back yard and pick through the piles of mesquite beans, for bugs, I assume, as I don’t see them eat the bean pods. There is a random sprinkling of fat little sparrows. I love fat little sparrows.
The stars of the yard, though, are my Herbs (all hummingbirds are named Herb, although sometimes I call the ladies “Herbalina”) and our Cooper’s hawk. We first saw the Cooper’s hawk a few years ago, when he perched on our swing frame. He was a juvenile, from the description I gave my bird guru June, but he has come back year after year, and my, don’t they just grow up so fast? He hangs out in our trees and on the wall, using it as a lookout for lunch in the wash that runs behind our wall. He also dines on mourning doves on a regular basis, as we find piles of feathers on the ground from time to time, and full skeletons caught in branches high above. We do not mourn, ironically, though I guess they probably do. Unironically.
I keep two feeders in the summer for Herb, and one through the winter, as it’s warm enough here that they don’t all leave. There are three that seem to fight regularly for supremacy of our backyard territory, and they are mostly black-chins, male and female, though we occasionally get visitors that look like a different breed, maybe Anna’s. They mean a lot to me personally, and they’re just really fascinating birds, in the way they fly, and their speed. They look so tiny and cute, but they can be ferocious in protecting their territory. I was once almost hit by a pair locked in mortal combat. They were going so fast and furious they didn’t even see me until the last second; I could feel the wind from their wings on my face.
Back in July, I looked out the dining room window while Scott and I were eating lunch, and saw that the Cooper’s hawk was perched in the tree. “Hey! Our hawk is here!” I was excited, as we hadn’t seen him in awhile. Scott nodded, as he’s not really into the Wild Kingdom special that is our back yard. He’d prefer no animals beyond our four dogs ever step paw or claw into our yard, because when they do, they have a tendency to get dead by one means or another, and then he has to clean them up with great sadness in his heart, especially when he has to remove the corpse from the jaws of one of the aforementioned canines. (He does this because chivalry is not dead, and I am ever grateful to him for it.)
What I didn’t expect to see, though, was that Herb was sitting on the branch right above the hawk’s head. A double feature, now with more delicious juxtaposition! I sprinted to get my camera, and against all hope, they were still there when I returned.
I got two shots off, and then just one more when Herb flew off; I didn’t know if I’d caught him or not until I downloaded the pictures off the camera.
Birds. They make me happy by just being. There’s a lesson in that.