Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A battle is raging, and I’m aiding and abetting it.

Lest you think I’m an underground arms dealer, I just simply believe in putting out seed and water in my garden to encourage the presence of birds. After making tea sandwiches for Saturday’s Relief Society humanitarian project day, I made bread crumbs from the leftover crusts to mix in with the birdseed. At least four types of birds have fallen for the enticement.

The scrub jay is bossy, vying for supremacy and chattering loudly. A business-like dark brown bird with an elegant beak seems to be the mediator, large enough to keep the marauding jay at bay so the smaller orange-breasted birds have a chance. The smallest ones, which look like some kind of sparrow, flit in and out under the wing of the dark trim bird. I need my niece Ariane, our family’s expert ornithologist, to identify for me exactly what birds these are.

Outside my kitchen window, the aerial choreography can go on for minutes on end: the swooping in from the nearby trees, the retreating to the nearby wisteria and fences, the claiming of territory on the rock, the furtive pecking at seeds and crumbs spilled on the ground, the splashing in the terra cotta dish-cum-bird bath. So intent are they on trying to claim their share of seeds and crumbs, they will ignore me if I stand very still between watering and weeding.

Around dawn I also hear the distinctive cooing of a pair of mourning doves who have reappeared in the back now that the new landscaping is settling in. They remind me of the owl I heard for many years outside my Peralta Hills bedroom window. As I heard his hooting almost every night and sometimes saw him flying in the moonlight among the eucalyptus trees, he became a friend who kept me company when I was up late studying.

Of all the avian characters in my backyard turf war, the dark big bird is my hero as he keeps the scrub jay from over-reaching and looks out for the welfare of smaller birds. Without the scrub jay, they’re perched comfortably among the citrus leaves and engaged in robust conversation; I can only wonder at what they’re saying. I can just imagine him telling one of the smallest sparrows, “Okay, little bird, you are safe and secure while I stand guard. I’ll watch out for you, so you can rest in this spot with food and drink apart from the cares of the rest of the world.” The little bird sings in appreciative reply and plays in the shade under his watchful eye.

The jay hasn’t been around tonight, perhaps getting into mischief in some other yard. The brown big bird must be tackling some project or diplomatic mission in another part of the wild kingdom. One little bird, though, is staying busy, darting to and fro. I’ll keep the seeds and crumbs replenished and I’m sure the territorial air strikes will resume sometime soon. I’m counting on the big bird to return, bringing his comforting presence with him and maintaining the equilibrium in this garden airspace.

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