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Monday, 31 August 2009

The Bird Parade

By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times

First came the finches, out-of-sight, singing their polyphonous warbling lilt, then flashing their rosy breasts as they strutted on my window sills. My finch-starved ears and eyes thrilled to their presence on my air conditioner last spring.

I worried that the sound and heat of the air conditioner would disturb them. Little did I know that they would be driven away by the more aggressive house sparrows before that could occur. I stayed angry with the sparrows until divine retribution seemed to have settled the score: on a stretch of days in the high 90s, when the air conditioner ran full tilt, all the birdie sounds ceased. Although I couldn’t see into the nest, I imagined that it held little roasted carcasses.

When my mother was alive, she took great pleasure in feeding the birds and squirrels. She would diligently chase away the greedy blue jays from the bird feeder. I would say to her, “Mother, they are all God’s critters!” Last summer, I learned to feel that way about the sparrows.

Another spring rolled around and I began to hear lots of finches in the surrounding trees. “That’s better,” I thought. “You’re safer and cooler there and I can still hear your trilling obbligatos.”

A hauntingly beautiful new song entered my world this springtime, bringing with it a chance to watch the cycle of bird life as well. Mourning doves built a spindly nest on my neighbor’s air conditioner in direct sight of my living room easy chair where I sit to write my journal and savor my morning cup of coffee.

I watched them mate, then patiently hatch the lone egg, then feed their fledgling. Watching the equal-time nest-tending of the dove pair amused and surprised me – I observed them taking shifts at precise, twelve-hour intervals.

I worried that the young one might step off the too-narrow ledge too soon. The nest, just a meager loosely-stacked pile of sticks, seemed so precariously built. Maybe he did: one minute he was there, a beautiful, fully-feathered mini-version of his parents — an hour later, gone.

The birds’ apartment was swept clean, then one day there was a flurry of activity again. Within hours, a huge edifice (in bird terms) began to grow, stick by stick, leaf by leaf, on the top of that air conditioner.

The dark-capped papa sparrow mostly stood and supervised, panting with his beak open in the intense heat, while his pale mate did all of the work, placing and rearranging the sticks, grasses and leaves. He did struggle with one branch that was obviously too big and leafy to fit on the ledge, and I could just imagine her saying, “If you can’t do anything right, just sit there and watch!”

I wasn't able to see into the nest since its gargantuan sides reached almost up to the roof overhang, six inches or more above. I worried that the straw-hat-sized structure could take off in a good strong wind.

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There are literally hundreds of sparrows nesting inside the building, leaving and entering through little grills in the walls. I’m not aware of others nesting on air conditioners, but perhaps there were. I somehow believe that it’s all for the entertainment of this bird lover. We could learn something from these little creatures. They finished building; their home awaited them; and then, only then, did they mate!

They successfully raised a large family, all fledged at the same time, and the nest was abandoned. Weeks later, I heard a ruckus outside my window and saw large speckled birds - immature starlings - investigating the nest with much resistance from the sparrows who hadn’t even been in it for ages, but had come back to assert their ownership.

I have been sad that I could never feed birds because I was unwilling to lure food right to the table for my ubiquitous cat. In my last apartment, the resident finches came without the enticement of food and now, in this, my home for twelve years, I have had four different kinds of birds find me. I eagerly await the next chapter.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

As I have gotten older I have come to appreciate birds. I really enjoyed your story.

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