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Birds of a Feather

Submitted by Albin Johnson - February 27, 2005

As I grow older and more static, my wife insists that we walk each morning along our grassy green belt in order to unlimber joints and get the vital organs working. Each time I try to invent an excuse not to promenade I am reminded, The early bird (me) gets the worm (better health)! I later tried to verify this claim and found some wag wrote: The early bird only dies earlier? Anyway, during a recent stroll, I noticed scores of Sea Gulls, some in V formation high overhead flying due North to our local landfill or dump! I immediately lowered my hat brim and raised my coat collar. There are far too many old white spots on the sidewalk to not practice some discretion. Soon came the familiar CAW- CAW- CAW coming from a group of Crows arguing with some unseen intruder who they were chasing away. It became evident whom they were warning, the familiar springtime frantic warble coming from a distant rooftop chimney. DAMN!!! That dreaded Mocking Bird had returned and was hollering for some female to notice. You could see him flashing his wings and jumping straight up into the air and then down. The ultimate showoff! My mother called them Cat Birds, probably because they will chase the neighboring cats by dive-bombing them.

Florida, Texas and a couple of other states claim the Orpheus Polyglottus specie as the official state bird. Mr. birdman, J.J. Audubon, describes the common Mocking Bird as a bird with wondrous songs and seductive butterfly motions as he courts a mate. Sorry, I can't buy that description! Perhaps the interloping California version isn't quite so considerate and tuneful. I think the only reason they come here is to escape the cold weather. In deference to this noisy avian, a poem by Sidney Lanier includes this line: Whatever (other) birds did or dreamed of doing, this (mocking bird) could do it!!!

Another story by Martha C. Woods tells a touching tale about Chippy, a baby Mocking Bird whose parents, Martha named, Jack and Jill. She relates the parents courtship, nesting, and the unfortunate eviction of baby Chippy from the nest and Ms Woods attempt to raise the forsaken chick. If you read this account, I suggest you obtain and play Slim Whitman's ballad Mockingbird Hill. Lyrics go like this: "Then my heart fills with gladness as I hear the trill of the birds in the tree tops on Mockingbird Hill." Now, if or when you have had it with these raucous birds, try hoisting helium filled balloons near the nest. It may frustrate the birds into moving on. BUT please don't shoot them no matter how annoying.

That warning about using a gun also includes another avian specie, the Corvidae Brachyrhynchos, or the common Crow. Remember that crows throughout history have been revered and worshipped as an extremely intelligent bird. I read where it is difficult to tell the male and female apart. They are colored all black! Hum, I remember when growing up, the bad cowboys in the movies wore all black! Crows live a long time, as much as 29 years. They will eat almost anything and in my neighborhood, they will gather each trash day around their favorite trashcans and cleverly pull items from cans whose lids are somewhat ajar. They also like the construction sites where workers toss their lunch debris. Keep in mind that crows mate for life and share the responsibility for raising their young. If one crow detects the presence of owls or hawks, a few loud Caws will bring an air force of crow relatives to squawk, menace and challenge the cringing interloper. One scientific study found that Crows on the island New Caledonia could fashion twigs into tools in order to help extract insect grubs from holes in trees. There are no sighted Crows in New Zealand, and in Hawaii, they are considered an endangered specie and protected by law.

Trivia time - There is a popular Rock Group called Counting Crows. They have toured worldwide and had a hit song called Accidentally in Love which was featured in the movie Shrek 2. I don't believe that Sheryl Crow is part of this entourage. Can anyone really be free as a bird? Sometimes a bird in the hand can get messy, and the wise worm stays in bed until the early bird leaves. More trivia: Dart throwing aficionados know about Crows Darts, perhaps the finest variety of darts made from wood, or brass or tungsten. The later one could cost $140 each. They come in a variety of knurled handles, tips, and weights from 10 to 25 grams. THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF! If you want to become a player, be sure the board is hung at the proper height and you stand at the correct distance. In scoring, unlike Robin Hood's feat of splitting his opponent's bulls eye arrow, a dart that strikes an opponent's dart will not count. Sorry I seem to have flown a little far a field!

Sea Gulls have a reputation for being a pest and a nuisance. They like Pigeons and Starlings are called scavengers, vermin, parasites, noisy and guilty of peppering parking lot autos with big blobs of white excrement. They do have a few friends though. Some one wrote: When one tugs on the strings of something (Gulls) in nature, they will ultimately find the subject (Gulls) are attached to the rest of the world. Ed note: (So it should be.)

There are many types of Gulls and many stories and tales about these magnificent flyers, the Herring gull or Larus Californicus. They are white with some gray under the wings and can be a large as 24 long. Being white you would think they would be the good guys! For the tourist and vacationing person, no seaside town, resort, beach or harbor would be half as interesting without them. They are not afraid of people. One can watch them squabble, squawk, chase and beg for scraps all day long. Yes, there are some folks who prefer the quiet atmosphere of calm waves lapping against a sandy lakeshore with Mocking Birds singing in the distance. Oh well! In conclusion, can any one dispute those miraculous Sea Gulls that flew many miles to the group of Mormons in Utah and saving their crops from a ravenous grasshopper infestation? (Incidentally, I really do like birds.)