Another Day in the Country

Birds of a feather…

© Another Day in the Country

It’s pure joy to be able to partake of tea and toast on the back porch, just like a picture in some country living magazine, only I’m still in pajamas and my hair is messy. The wind isn’t blowing. Even the dogs of Ramona are quiet at this hour. These times of idyllic calm must be savored or they’ll slip through your fingers.

The grackles are checking out the bird feeder this morning with their shiny iridescent coats and yellow spectacles. They peer over the edge of the tray and down to the ground, where the majority of the sunflower seeds have been swept.

The blue jay family was here earlier. They are obnoxious birds, like noisy neighbors who rev their motorcycle and yell at their kids. That jay is a wasteful braggart — obnoxious, shoveling those expensive seeds out of the feeder like empty pop cans thrown out of a car window. Those seeds, left undisciplined, will grow like huge, happy trees if I don’t pull them out quickly.

The purple-headed finch has to scramble for food on the ground, which has its obvious drawback. There’s a cat down there, albeit a naïve one, who thinks she is invisible though her tail protrudes, long and black, from the bushes. I’m not sure she’d know what to do with a bird if she caught one. Meanwhile, she watches, curious. The finches flit between the ground and the fence, snatching a bit to eat.

Cardinals arrive and scold such reckless jays who squander food. You would never find them wasting food like that. It is their nature to be more polite and orderly, at least in my yard.

There are no bird police to call when things get out of hand. The cardinal on the trellis makes a warning call, “That is a cat in the lilies,” he seems to say as he peers down from above. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The jay, bigger, rude, and a returning bully, pays scant attention. I think the cardinal wishes the cat would get a mouth full of jay. I watch and vow that I won’t fill that feeder again today, maybe not even all week, if that jay is just going to empty it single-handedly.

Two young vultures are circling high over the field next door, checking things out. Something is dead in that field. Luckily, it’s not one of my chickens.

Late yesterday afternoon the rooster squawked, and I ran for the backyard yelling at a big white dog with a semi-detached man running behind, who was trying to get hold of the end of the dog’s rope. The dog was after some chicken fun. Thankfully, the hay field is still tall beside the chicken house, and the girls all ran for cover. It took a couple of hours for them to regain their wits and come back to the house for the night.

A bunny (we have so many this spring) lops toward the bird feeder as I watch. A blackbird scolds him off, somehow sensing the curious rabbit is no threat to the smaller handful of feathers on sidewalk level.

In the side yard a turtle dove sits protectively on her nest in the river birch tree. I say “nest” when it’s really a conglomeration of haphazard twigs so fragile that it seems as if her sitting on them keeps the configuration together. She was skittish when she first moved into the neighborhood, flying up in a panic of gray feathers and air whenever I walked out the back door. But now she’s settled, hatching those eggs for another generation of cooing.

Later, on the way to exercise class, I passed Rosebank Cemetery. A convention of crows in their black clerical garb perched on tombstones and had a raucous theological discussion. I cheered them on although they didn’t even glance in my direction, so intent were they on the grave subject at hand. Everyone was talking at once!

“Isn’t it grand?” I said to myself, “Birds of a feather…” and we all flew off to spend another day in the country.

 

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