Tuesday, April 01, 2008

So these four birds walked into a yard...

So these four birds walked into a yard...

The Mallard pair arrived a few days after one of the many pre/early spring deluges that have afflicted our neck of the woods this March. Although there were multiple inches of rain in our area it should be mentioned that the actual effect on our lifestyle was that of a minor nuisance - certainly nothing like the actual damage that has been and is being done in other portions of the country.

Nonetheless for several days our yard was comprised primarily of standing water with islets of sodden sod in the higher spots. Unfortunately these pieces of land were (a) too far apart from each other to provide a dry land route through our yard and (b) too damn wet to provide a dry land route anyway. My daily trek to the bird feeders and the squirrel corn station was accompanied by the slurping sound of Muck Boots being sucked into the land as well as the appreciative chitter of early morning avians and the enthusiastic chatter of our always-hungry squirrels.

Webbed footed water birds have visited us before - sometimes couples, sometimes families - but always when it was wet. They waddle around the waterscape, sitting on the puddles and then arising to wander some more when they discover that there isn't enough liquid depth to extend their legs and expand their membrane-attached toes.

Occasionally they feed on the sunflower seed remains that have fallen beneath the bird feeders. Mostly they peck at the kernels that get tossed aside by the squirrels as they ravage the cobs of corn that we provide them. Some, apparently able to amuse themselves with a minimal amount of H2O and an even lesser quantity of unrefined cereal, have stayed for several hours. Most however quickly assess the situation as being considerably less than meets the eye (as seen in their initial flyover), grab a kernel or two, and leave.

Our most recent duck visitors however waited until the yard was completely dry before dropping in to see us. Mars noticed them wandering back and forth seemingly in search of something. He had a furrowed-brow look on his face like "I'm sure I saw water here somewhere." She acted as if it was their first time out together and she had allowed him to plan it - last time that was going to happen. After several back-and-forths she spotted the corn kernels under the oak tree and ambled over to peck a few. He watched as if protecting her, constantly scanning the horizon. Actually he was probably trying to figure out what had happened to the neat little wetlands area he thought he was taking her to.

Soon she hopped up and flew away at the dangerously low altitude that ducks assume for the first quarter mile of their takeoffs. He of course dutifully followed hurrying to catch up so that it would look as if he had thought of it first.

Robins also have been coming and going for the past couple of weeks - in dry and wet weather. But one of them seems to have stayed. Normally he stands motionless under the bird feeders looking like the perfect gentleman waiting for his date - too polite to show impatience or concern by pacing or looking around lest his expected companion see his state of agitation and think less of him. As evidenced by the dietary choices of other redbreasts, worms are plentiful on our modest estate. Nonetheless our steadfast visitor, whom Mars has named Guido for reasons I do not totally understand, seems to limit his food intake to sunflower seeds from the ground under the feeding stations.

Perhaps his solitariness is attributable to his food choices. And what I am interpreting as his dignified demeanor is actually the annoying aloofness of one of those provender purists who feel that their diet entitles them to a mien of moral superiority. Time will tell, but I personally am hoping that he is Vegetarian. The worms are much more beneficial to my gardening efforts than are the birdseeds and look a lot less attractive going down.

Our other potential permanent resident, or at least seasonal, is a male House Sparrow who has been busy remodeling the living quarters in our dead Flowering Crab branch. The space was first hollowed out two years ago by a Downy Woodpecker who never actually lived there. Apparently, even though he and his friend still hang around the tree and its suet restaurant, they have zero interest in residing there. He was apparently just another real estate speculator who "flipped" the newly improved property to family of Sparrows at his first opportunity. It is one of the few properties in our town that gets off the market quickly.

The ducks have not returned, in spite of another outbreak of wet-followed-by-dry, days. Guido the Robin, still by himself, continues to display his dignified countenance and patience and has yet to be seen indulging in the less dignified, higher-protein eating habits of the other visiting thrushes. And the sparrow seems to have been joined by a female interior designer.

So what's the punch line? There isn't one yet.

When reality writes the script the climactic ending doesn't always come when you want it to. You just have to be patient and wait. Exactly like Guido seems to be doing.

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