Saturday, January 07, 2006

Nature! Birdwatching, Even.

So I just took a break from my vitally important computer tasks, namely, hitting the refresh button on metachat and playing, yet again, that evil Bust Out game to which I am so, so hideously addicted, and catching up on several months of Onion avoidance (I hate, hate, hate their latest website design; it's full of moving ads and annoying popups and it's practically un-navigable, also, they seem to have lost track of the funny) and so on (I haven't read Go Fug Yourself yet, but it's only a matter of time) and went outside to smoke a cigarette. There was something crunching around in the wintry (thus crunchy) underbrush beyond the fence.

"Mr. Bill?" I said softly, "Mr. Bill?" I know, of course, that Mr. Bill would never come when called, he is, after all, a cat, and also a supremely paranoid one who thinks that despite 2 1/2 years of unrelenting kindness, we are just biding our time before we do something supremely evil to his poor little cat self. So I wasn't surprised when Mr. Bill did not materialize. I walked around the grape arbor (yeah, right. Let's rename that the Once-Grape-Arbor-Now-Giant-Weedy-Mess-of-Crap-Trees) so that I would have more room to run in case it was a rabid raccoon or a bear or a serial killer or one of the neighborhood kids or something, and saw. . . a bird. A brown bird with a very speckled breast, about 7 or 8 inches long, digging in the mud near the thorn bushes. I've never seen a bird dig before, and this one was pretty serious about it. S/he kept tossing bits of dirt and grass and twigs around and then stabbing his/her beak into the ground. It (these pronoun changes get tiresome, don't you find?) let me get quite close, so when I finished my cigarette I came in and got the bird book.

Before I moved here, Squirrel Capital of the World, I had a birdfeeder by my kitchen window. That is impossible in Asheville, because the squirrels resent it, and there is no keeping them off. At any rate, I actually used to really watch the birds at my birdfeeder and I got a birdbook and I learned to identify them, or at least the tufted titmice and chickadees and occasional nuthatches and rosy breasted finches we got in Maryland. Then I moved here and gave all that nerdy shit up in favor of other nerdy shit (do you know I was on IRC last night debating Faramir's portrayal in the books vs. the movies? No lie. I'm even farther gone in geekdom than I myself sometimes suspect.) and, except for spotting the occasional hawk (one took a mockingbird out of the bush on my front lawn three summers ago, really, seriously; it was quite dramatic) and mockingbirds and Carolina wrens, and, of course, our old friend the Turkey Buzzard, a truly awful yet somehow wonderful bird (they barf on their enemies; you really can't beat that; I've always wanted to have one for a pet so I could get it to barf on random people who have been unkind to me, bwah ha ha) I have forgotten my birding.

In order to identify my digging friend, I dug out the bird book from it's dusty recess in the back of the bookshelf. I was hoping, as always, that I had seen a really rare bird, a bird from Alaska or Greenland that had somehow gotten terribly lost or hitched a ride on an airplane or something, so I tried to convince myself it was a misplaced pipit, but I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it. It was either a female redwinged blackbird, which is possible but a bit odd because it was alone, or (ah, anticlimax) a starling hiding in winter plumage, a bird which is to other birds as the weak wooded weed trees growing up through my grape arbor are to other trees: rubbish. I know there are starlings living in my next door neighbor's wall, because I've seen them go in and out in the spring, so chances are it is a starling. A weed bird, but still, I'd never seen a bird dig before, so it was worth it. Ah nature and it's unceasing wonders - I really should smoke more, so I can see some of them.


jaybird said...

Methinks it's a Brown Thrasher. I've seen the kind of bird you're talking about, and it wasn't a RWBB in winter plumage, since most RWBBs don't overwinter in this area or prefer peopled places (they really love marshes).

jaybird said...

Or a wood thrush. Sent you links.

mygothlaundry said...

Thanks for the links! It might have been a brown thrasher, but it was really brown, with no white on it anywhere, which is still kind of making me lean towards a starling. But the behavior they described from the brown thrasher sounds more like it. I haven't seen it again.