On weekday mornings, our walks occur under cover of darkness. I listen to my iPod as we make our way along the familiar, darkened route. On Saturday, however, we sleep in and begin our walk as the sun is rising. With the coming of spring the birds have returned, and they greet the dawn with song. On Saturdays I walk without iPod and rely on the cheeps and tweets, the chirps and the twitters, for my musical accompaniment. Their happy sounds make the morning a bit more glorious.
Posts Tagged ‘birds’
Mom’s new place features a large, cabinet-type birdcage in the lobby that is filled with parakeets and other birds. It takes up a good part of the wall, is brightly lit, has big windows, and is kept neat and clean.
I still feel sorry for the birds, though.
Today I went to a meeting at one of those office buildings that has lagoons in front, apparently to create a more pastoral feel. The water may look nice, but it attracts Canadian geese — and two of them were standing by the front door, honking, hissing, and leaving deposits on the decorative brick entrance way as I walked in. They aren’t the greatest greeters in the world.
If I had the choice, I think I’d forgo the water to avoid the geese.
Brown snakes are overrunning Guam. They came to the island aboard U.S. ships after World War II. Now they are multiplying like crazy, have killed off virtually every native species of bird, and are biting humans and wrecking power lines. As a result, Guam’s jungle areas are coated with spider webs, because the birds that normally would eat the spiders aren’t there to keep the spiders in check.
Guam’s snake infestation is giving Hawaii the heebie-jeebies. If a pregnant brown snake, or a mating pair of snakes, hitched a ride on a boat and landed in the snakeless Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s beautiful bird population — which has no fear of snakes — could be decimated.
Guam officials are concerned that the brown snake problem could hurt Guam’s reputation as a tourist destination. No kidding! Guam sounds like a nightmare. If your small island is infested with biting snakes and spiders, you’ve already managed to creep out the vast majority of humans. All Guam needs to do to complete the hair-raising, creepy-crawlie trifecta is to throw some scorpions into the mix.
The U.S. government has come up with a drastic solution to Guam’s brown snake problem. It will drop dead mice laced with painkillers over the island’s jungles. The theory is that the brown snakes will eat the mice and die by the score. Presumably, the government has some reason to believe that other mice-eating creatures won’t gobble down the tainted mice.
I’m not so sure — and I therefore composed this bit of doggerel:
Brown snakes hitched a ride to Guam, hoping to find some lebensraum
They bred and grew to levels absurd, ’til little Guam had not a bird
And as the bird population ebbed, the isle became more spider-webbed
Then Uncle Sam said it’d help poor Guam, by inventing a toxic mice bomb
So, cats of Guam! Good cats, beware! Toxic mice are in the air!
The yellow-bellied birds of Cocobay are hungry . . . always hungry.
When people leave their tables after a meal, a scout bird quickly flits down for a look. If the plate looks promising — not a typical scenario, because the food here is excellent and clean plates are the rule — the word goes out on the bird grapevine.
Suddenly another bird appears, then another, then another. Before you know it, there’s a storm of bright yellow birds nibbling at every plate, crumb, and ice cream bowl on the abandoned table, with wings beating furiously as they fly back and forth after retrieving a scrap and scarfing it down. They eat as much as they can before a server comes over to clear the table and shoo them away.
With the sudden appearance of dozens of previously undetected birds, their rapid, decisive movements, and their creepy narrowing bird eyes as they turn their gaze at your inviting table, it’s a scene that might make someone like Alfred Hitchcock get an idea about making a movie about aggressive, flocking birds that have a newfound taste for a different kind of food item.
We did hear the cries of a few loons — a disconcerting sound if you’re not used to it — and early one morning I saw a flock of ducks land on the water near the island, do some quick diving for grub, and then get into formation and sail regally into the distance.
But there is one creature, besides humans, that seems to deal pretty well with the vast concrete expanse of the urban world: birds. And not just pigeons — those loud, filthy, disgusting rats of the air — either.
Plant a tree or two on a courtyard amidst the high rises, and you’re soon likely to find a bird or two or perched in the branches. On a recent trip to Houston, I saw three different types of birds (at least, they looked to be different to my untrained eye) clinging to branches in the same tree on the same generic corporate office building plaza — chirping, grooming themselves, calling out to their fellow feathered friends, and finally flapping off to some other location.
Birds are good company when you are moving through a downtown area. A chirp and a flutter of wings may be small things, but they make you feel like you still have some connection to the world that exists beyond the edge of the concrete, asphalt, and steel.
Today, walking along the Scioto Mile and heading back to the office after lunch, I saw an odd sight: a seagull perched boldly on the concrete abutment next to the walkway. The purpose of the Scioto Mile was to make the riverside into more of a part of the downtown experience, and I found myself wondering momentarily whether the gull had been hired and trained to hang out along the Scioto Mile as a kind of ready-made photo opportunity, so people would be reminded that there is, in fact, a waterfront in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s strange, indeed, to see a seagull framed against the Columbus skyline.
On Pelee Island, the gulls have staked out their territory on the rocky outcroppings shielding the west dock. The gulls know that humans may use the breakwaters for other purposes, but those rocks are theirs.
At least, that’s what I think this bird is after looking through the Waterbirds of Ohio guidebook from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. It’s one of many bird species we saw this year on our visit to Old Hen Island in Lake Erie.
This bird is huge — not quite as big as a chicken, but much, much larger than the robins, cardinals and blue jays we see here in central Ohio. It must weigh several pounds, and it’s not particularly intimidated by an approaching human. Its oily feathers allow it to float comfortably on the water. It bobs up and down on the swells of Lake Erie and then takes off and wheels around the island, high in the air. It’s also perfectly comfortable waddling around the patch of grass in the middle of the island, looking suspiciously at whoever might come near.
These gulls also are loud. In the morning, their startling cries that greet the sunrise could wake the dead — or even the snoring cribbage player who might have had a few Labatt’s too many the night before. And, of course, the gulls are happy to leave their markers. The rocky shores of the island are coated with chalky droppings that look like multiple coats of bright white paint.
The Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve is home to countless different kinds of birds — some of whom like roosting on the old-fashioned telephone wires that run alongside one of the access roads to Lake Erie. These swallows seemed to be enjoying the view, and the bright sunshine.
We have several blue heron in New Albany. They stalk the fish at the ponds around the golf course, and they are formidable hunters. Anyone who wants to take a lesson in patience would do well to watch the blue heron, standing motionless along the shore line for long periods of time, and then striking when the time is precisely right.
Swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, salmons return to the stream where they were spawned, Vulcans return to Vulcan to mate . . . and buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio.
Every March 15 buzzards — also known as turkey vultures — flock back to the little town in northern Ohio, where they are greeted by residents and bird-watchers. Today the the celebrants of Buzzard Day in Hinckley were rewarded by a number of sightings of the large black birds.
No one knows exactly why buzzards are so attracted to Hinckley. Some say the original inhabitants of the town saw the birds circling a gallows on which members of the Wyandot tribe hanged a squaw suspected of practicing witchcraft, others say the buzzards were first attracted by a huge pile of animal remains left after the Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818. Whatever the reason, buzzards have been associated with Hinckley for as long as anyone can remember.
Left unanswered, of course, is why settlers would want to live in the vicinity of large, ugly, carrion-eating birds — or, for that matter, why anyone would want to celebrate the return of the filthy creatures when the Ides of March arrive. Those are just some of the little mysteries that make small-town Ohio great.
Last night a powerful series of thunderstorms rolled through central Ohio. It was the first major thunderstorm of the season, and coming as it did in the black early morning hours it was a spectacular show.
I first heard the storm when it was well off to the west. I had our windows open to enjoy some fresh evening air and was awakened by the distant growl of thunder. As I lay in bed and saw the later lightning flashes, I counted “one-one thousand, two-one thousand” until I heard the thunder, as I had been taught to do as a child, to get a sense of how far away the storm was. Soon enough the storm was directly upon us, with the brilliant lightning strobes followed instantaneously by ear-splitting cracks and the house lashed by heavy drops of rain. As the thunderheads receded into the east I dozed off, only to be reawakened by another line of oncoming stormclouds with their bolts and booms. By the time the second storm was over, it was time to get up for good and walk the dogs.
As we went outside into the freshly washed world, lightning was visible on the eastern horizon and the air still felt electrically charged. We heard birds chirping, as they always do after a storm. It made me think how miserable it must be to a bird during an early spring thunderstorm, high up in the trees and close to all the activity and noise, unshielded by any leafy canopy. The birds must be thrilled when the storm passes and the peril is over. It’s no wonder they sing so loudly afterward, to celebrate their survival and let their friends know they are still around.
Here’s another sure sign that spring is near: the swans are back on the pond next to the green on number 5 North. Yesterday, on a brilliantly sunny day, the magnificent birds were drifting regally on the water, nibbling on the plants at the water’s edge and adding a bit of class to the neighborhood.