Steller’s Jay

One of the more adventurous birds in the mountains around Lake Arrowhead is the Steller’s Jay. It’s a pretty blue color with a high tufted crown — and it loves peanuts. The CSIL spreads peanuts in their shells on the deck, and the jays drop by to grab a peanut, take a few hops, and fly to a nearby tree to extricate the nut from the shell before coming back for more.

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Birdsong And Coffee

A powerful set of rainstorms rolled over our neighborhood overnight, leaving the ground wet and the air with that light, crisp, delectable, freshly washed feel. Taking deep whiffs of the air the morning after a Midwestern summer storm is like crawling into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets.

I poured myself a cup of coffee, from beans just ground by Stauf’s, and padded out onto our back porch, where the neighborhood birds were putting on a musical performance, free to anyone who cared to listen.

Sunday morning is a good time to drink a fine cup of coffee and listen to the birds. There’s no traffic on Third to increase the level of background noise, and you can hear the different birds, with their different, melodic calls, distinctly. It is so quiet and peaceful that you can hear the chirps and songs of birds in the distance, answering the calls of their brethren, and when the birds take a brief break, the absolute stillness feels deep and almost palpable.

The birds put on a pretty good show.

The Birds, Redux

Suppose, for a moment, that you are in a strange town on a business trip.  Suppose that, in the eerie twilight, you are walking back to your generic motel room after having consumed a forgettable meal served by a forgettable franchise restaurant, along a busy commercial thoroughfare with telephone wires overhead.  Suppose you hear an odd fluttering noise, like a random displacement of air, when suddenly you look up and see that every square inch of telephone pole and wire is covered by a roiling mass of indistinguishable black birds that don’t seem to be doing anything except creepily perching in this spot for reasons known only to their tiny, alien, nictating bird brains.

Oh, yeah — and suppose when you were a kid you stupidly watched Alfred Hitchcock’s  The Birds on late-night TV and ever since you’ve been secretly terrified by the possibility that your eyes will be pecked out by evil birds in a strange town — probably after you have to put up with tiresome lectures by some bird know-it-all woman wearing a beret.

Yes, you’ll sleep well tonight, experiencing the wonders of business travel.  At least you haven’t seen anybody in a beret . . . yet.

Goslings On Parade

It’s spring, so of course we’ve got hatchlings at the Schiller Park pond.  A family of Canadian geese has a brood of four goslings who have been strutting their stuff, to the delight of their proud and protective parents and passersby alike.

The brown goslings are almost unbearably cute, and their tumbling and waddling as they follow Mom and Dad around is fun to watch.  Soon they’ll be losing their downy coats and will emerge as full-grown Canadian geese — one of the most aggressive, loud-honking, crap-anywhere-and-everywhere, obnoxious species of birds that you find around these parts.

I prefer them at this stage.

Birds Of A Feather

IMG_0804Today two birds decided to roost for a bit on the ledge right outside the window in front of my desk.  I’m not sure what kinds of birds they were — mourning doves?  brown pigeons? — but I certainly understood their impulse to bask in the sunshine and enjoy some long overdue spring weather.

I would gladly have been out on the ledge with them.  Today was the kind of day where, in elementary school, you’d beg your teacher to let you sit outside for the math lesson — and the kind of day where a teacher sick to death of gray, chilly weather might just say yes.

Bald And Beautiful

 A trainer had a bald eagle at the dinner function we attended tonight, and I was stunned by its size — and its magnificence.  

For the most part the bird was hooded, but from time to time the trainer removed the hood so the eagle could scan the room.  What a stern, penetrating gaze!  You could easily imagine the cowering feeling that prey might have when fixed in that steely glance.