Posts Tagged: birds

Jun 15

Who Would Harm a Cartoon Bird?

Was walking the dogs and saw a couple of cartoon birds. They were California Quail, a male and female, young, cartoonish creatures the like of which find their way into actual cartoons pretty often. They look Disney-designed. The males are pudgy, with sartorially splendid markings, stylish piping of white about black masks, golden yellow speckling a proud breast that looks like something from a Punch illustration of a fat Brit noble–and of course, that bold and impudent plume drooping over their beaks, a kind of apostrophe always setting off the bubbling pip pip noises they make. They run, these guys, more often than they fly, sprinting like roadrunners when pursued. They love a good dust bath too–they totally luxuriate in dust baths.

And they like parties. Once I went out behind my house and found a large covey, or really a whole flock of them, communing along the edges of my roof, on tree branches, the fences–scores and scores of them facing inward into the yard, pipping and plipping at one another. I read that they’re “highly social” and in this case they were positively conventioneers.

On the walk I watched the young quail couple making a single dotted line across the ground through someone’s yard, the female following in the exact turns of the trail left by the male. A charming sight. Sometimes it’s relaxing to unashamedly revel in the site of an adorable, plump little bird with a plume. Who would harm such a–*BLAM!* Dick Cheney at a “game farm”…where “hunters” go into a fenced area, find the little birds, and blow them to pieces, for fun, with a shotgun. Cheney loves to do it with quail, doves, grouse… and if he’s been drinking he might shoot his friend in the face.

May 15


We try to keep the murderous thug in the house, but sometimes he escapes–and sometimes there are vigilantes waiting for him. I refer to our thuggish black cat (who has been known to steal neighbor cats’ food and pet toys). He likes to go out and kill birds…

But lately he’s been attacked by birds, mostly mockingbirds, who give off a distinctive warning sound when he appears. I’ve observed this, heard this, over and over. The sound is like, “CHEP! …CHEP!…CHEP!..CHEP!” Not cheep–chep. A harsh repetitive sound, like an alarm siren. It’s like they’re saying, “Cat!…Cat!..Cat!” Then–the mockingbird dives at the cat and, sometimes striking it with its claws. The mockingbird often adds a second sound –softer–like “CHEP!…chirp…CHEP!…chirp….” ANd when it does this *another mockingbird shows up.*. It’s well known that birds sometimes call for assistance…When this happens, the cat pussies out, his thug ways vanish–he has no instinct for repelling this kind of assault–and makes a pathetic “Meep!” sound, then runs and hides under low hanging limbs.

To my surprise, the mockingbird will sometimes hover, in the course of this harassment. Most birds can hover, but many only do it on special occasions, it appears.

Meanwhile this thug cat comes in and whines to me that he’s being persecuted by the birds. He’s actually been driven to take refuge back in the house by them at times…

Nov 14

Me, Snow White, and Woody Woodpecker

I was in the garden yesterday watering the new plants when I saw a lark sparrow watching the spray, eyeing it from within a shrub. He was very interested in the arc of water and seemed to be contemplating a shower but he kept looking at me nervously. I knew if I sprayed right at him he’d be startled away. I very carefully turned off the sprayer and then angled it so the water fell on the shrub from directly above, not too forcefully, to give a rain effect. It pattered down through the leaves and he stayed in the shrub, took the dripping for rain and began to flick his wings and shake himself in it, reveling in the rainshower. Yes, it looked like something from a Disney animated film circa 1940, but I didn’t care, it gave me and the bird pleasure. . .

A few days ago I was working on the stairs I’m putting in on the hill, and heard a distinctive drumming, a tone I hadn’t heard before. A tock tock-tock tock, a bit hollow sounding. I was surprised to find it was a woodpecker–surprised because it wasn’t the usual sound. Realized it was because he was tapping at a palm tree, which being a bit spongier and corklike produces a different sound. The woodpecker then went to an oak tree, harder wood, and it made a different clack clack clack sound, quite distinct from the palm tree tone. It was a different *note*. Theoretically you could make tunes by following woodpeckers around to different trees, each type of tree producing a different note from the impact of the bird’s beak; record the variants, cut and mix, make a coherent melody. I leave it to you.