Birdlife

Birdlife
"Forces marshaling before the great reconquering and resettling begins."

The ruckus starts early, before the sun crests the low eastern hills, and continues well into the morning. A slow decrescendo continues until later afternoon, when the ruckus starts again. Mourning doves count continuous cadence against which grackles chitter. Robins hop nearly ten feet in the air before returning to their relentless stalking. Swallows silently swoop through. Sparrows by the dozens fine groom unturned soil. Redwing black birds noisily defend territory. Hawks and turkey buzzards surveil from a few hundred feet above. Canada geese point out every imperfection troubling their passage, leaving behind cigar butt trails. The prairie blooms first in bird life. Before dandelion and quince, before tulip and cherry, birdsong breaks the long winter silence with exuberance, the soundtrack of budding life.

The passenger jets from Minneapolis fly over a fly zone that extends clear down to the ground.
The first week of May belongs to the creatures destined to become background bit players by June. Before the bugs appear, the birds are here waiting. Perhaps they're complaining about the absence of their favorite condiment. Maybe they're chanting mosquitos into existence, performing ancient rituals to manifest more protein into their diets. The grass has given up her beige coat to show deep green. The earth here retains the deep gumbo black of the centuries of grassland that came before cultivation. The birds remain as stewards of this place.

Swallows scope out likely spots for their spit mud nests, always finding at least one unwatched exterior light fixture or rarely used exit door from which to whitewash the surfaces beneath. Once the eggs hatch, Ed can't bear to move the nests and bears the inconvenience until the young ones fledge. A few of last year's favorite places, remodeled overwinter, no longer support the construction, but poop lines on the new deck show that someone tried to build anyway before going away to somewhere else. The sheds and barn hold hundreds of promising places. No swallow need ever go wanting for lack of a suitable location. Their habits, too, delay their acceptance.

A hundred noisy sentinels scrutinize my every move. Sitting on the new deck out back in the cool shade of another promising spring day, I understand that I'm on stage, my every move closely watched, though I have no idea how each action might be interpreted. If I were the birds, I'd be watching for the tiller, the machine that brings worms and grubs to the surface for easy gorging. I'd be watching for a sprinkler being set, something to take a decent shower in and to wash up worms and grubs to breathe, easing my feasting. Half the robins wear double-breasted vests, chests pushed out like city councilmen considering some monumental project. A pheasant trumpets somewhere behind the shelter belt. The grackles move themselves like glowering chess pieces between the cottonwoods and birches. Forces marshaling before the great reconquering and resettling begins.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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