Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keep singing!

Right now there's a Northern Mockingbird outside the window, feverishly and relentlessly singing to impress his mate, who just arrived in our yard today (he's been singing for about a month.) Driven by instinct, he settled in and kept singing. Night after night, a male barn swallow roosts beside his egg-filled nest, even after his mate has been missing for a week and the clutch is lost. Two winters ago a snowy owl made our town his home for 4 months bringing birdwatchers from miles around to observe and record his every move and pellet expulsion. What makes this place so right for them?

But, there's more. Always more. While cleaning up the remains from another spectacular peony bloom, I hear Kevin say "Here's Michele, I'll let you talk to her." On the other end of the phone line was our friend David from the market around the corner. One of his customers reported having a sandhill crane in their front yard. A sandhill crane just up the road? Could it be? I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one this close, so I dropped the broom, the clippers, spritzed myself with bug-spray (thinking we would be trudging through a field), grabbed the binoculars, jumped in the car and picked up David along the way.

Okay, so up the road was about 3 miles, but in farm country, that's still in the neighborhood. I was half expecting the bird would turn out to be a Great Blue Heron. I was so wrong. As we pulled into the driveway, there it was, its red-patched head a beacon in the green grass under a small tree. It was no more that 20 feet from us, foraging on the ground below the backyard bird feeder. We didn't even have to get out of the car. It made no reaction to our being there. The property owner stood by, shaking his head. He never expected to be feeding a bird like this! Every few minutes, the bird would let out a loud, prehistoric-like clucking squawk. We were thrilled.

The crane has been there for about a week now, strutting around in the yard like a pet, and there is no telling how long it will stay or what attracted it there in the first place. The general area is perfect habitat for a sandhill crane, and so is the neighbor's yard next door, and the yard across the road. Why did it choose this particular yard?

Like the birds, we have chosen one place from a thousand in which to land. We're safe, well fed, and industrious. But which bird are we? The dependable migrant who stays the course year after year? Or the errant who has temporarily lost its way and must survive on wits and instinct? Or the wanderer who stays for a while, and moves on? No matter. For now, it feels right to settle in and keep on singing.

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