Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Non-twitter tweets

I may have to get a bird book.

In the morning, we wake up to a cacophony of whistles and tweets (not the online kind) as robins, finches, crows, sparrows, and the occasional blue jays flit about from tree to tree outside the house.

Aside from those fanciful flutterers, there's also the daily drumming of the grouse which apparantly lives in the un-lanscaped, patially treed brush at the edge of our property. And then there's the slightly unnerving bicycle-bell-like cry of what I'm told is a pheasant in search of a mate (I hope he finds one really soon).

There is also the red-chested sparrow or swallow (not sure which) which is determinedly trying to take up residence in the barn. Shortly after movning here, I noticed two nests, side-by-side in the rafters above Murray's stall. The wall beneath them is dotted with tell-tale white streaks. I thought about removing the nests, but never got around to it. Now I wish I had. The sparrow/swallow seems to want to re-claim those nests, and in the evening it darts about over Maggie and Murray's heads. I try to chase it out with my broom, but usually my arms get tired before I can swat it out an open window. Besides, the windows and doors will be open all summer, and I expect it will be a never-ending battle.

The comings and goings of our feathered friends do provide great entertainment to the animals. They help keep Ruffles awake during the day. He can spend hours crouched on his cat-tree or perched on a windowsill, tracking the birds' quick movements with his wide-open, bright green eyes. His fluffy black tail twitches quicker and quicker as he spots more and more birds. His jaws open and close as he cackles at his would-be prey. It's as though the birds, sensing his yearning, purposefully taunt him by hopping and fluttering just outside the windows.

They don't taunt our dog Muscade. When she bounds out the front door in the morning en-route to her favourite pee-spot, she detours toward any birds scrounging the ground for a protein-rich breakfast. Her hackles come up, her step quickens, and she aims her biggest barks at whatever bird is closest. She seems to consider it her duty to send them sucrrying skyward where they belong.

Unfortunately, while they always manage to avoid being clutched within Muscade's gaping jaws (I don't think she'd ever hurt one anyway) our flitting finches seem to have a fatal attraction to our picture windows. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a dead bird on the deck. I looked up, and sure enough, there was a small bird-shaped smudge on the outside of the window.

Today, I was in the kitchen when I heard a thud. I recognized that sound, and looked out the window onto the deck. Sure enough, there was a small finch, lying on its back, its head twisted to one side, with its twig-like legs propped straight up in the air. It wasn't moving, or at least I didn't think it was, but as I kept looking, I noticed that I could see its chest heaving...its tiny heart still beating. I realized I should probably do something to put the poor thing out of its misery, but I simply couldn't bring myself to do it. Ruffles looked as though he'd gladly lend his claws to the job, but I couldn't bring myself to allow that either. I went back to the kitchen to finish the dishes.

About five minutes later, I looked out the window again, by now expecting the heaving chest to be still. It wasn't. The bird was still on its back, it hadn't moved, but it was definitely still breathing. I couldn't bare the thought of it out there suffering, dying a slow death, possibly to be picked-off by the occasionally-seen feral barn-cat. I took a deep breath and pulled on some gloves. I prepared myself to snap its neck. I really didn't think I could do it, but I also couldn't bear the guilt of leaving it there. I quietly opened the patio door and stepped outside. I knelt down in front of the upside-down bird. I reached toward it and in one swift movement...the bird flipped itself over and hopped two steps back. Thank goodness.

It tilted its head and looked at me out of dark, round eyes for a few seconds, its little heart still visibly pounding in its mottled chest. I didn't move. It hopped a few more steps. There was no blood, its wings seemed intact. I went back into the house. I looked outside 10 minutes later, and the bird was gone. And they say cats have nine lives.

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