Thursday, June 7, 2012
Trailer Park Daily: Pecking Order
I have always enjoyed the opportunity to observe the local flora and fauna wherever I may find myself. Doing this has been facilitated by purchasing several bird-feeders over the course of the last few years while nomadically travelling mostly across the great state of Texas, with a year-long stint in central Oklahoma. I use the descriptive "several" because if you have ever observed over-zealous squirrels feeding, then you know the havoc they can wreak on a plastic seed-dispenser. Once, I returned from a weekend away to find my feeder completely chewed through and lick marks in the seed dust adhering to the insides. Yet, I haven't minded. I'm glad they congregate alongside the birds as well as the few moments or extended hours of observation they provide by just being...well, just being.
Now this isn't an attempt on my part to expostulate on what or who each of them represent or why this or that is relevant to today's societal or political climate. I'll leave that to the Orwellian scholars and conspiracy theorists. Much less, I do not want to even venture into being a pivotal part of the equation, I am content to merely act as the catalyst "seed-bringer." I am well aware of my selfishness; the motivation is more along the lines of pure escapism or gleaning inspiration. There is no "behind-the-scenes" altruism or "between-the-lines" meanings. My clumsy prose contains too many words in its own right to be hailed as a lacy veil for deep profundity, more so likened to that clunky ill-fitting sweater you got for a Christmas gift, the one you only wore the day of 75 degrees and you wish would shrink to not-at-all-fitting size.
Case in point: That last sentence.
There may well be a parable here somewhere, but that will be ours to discover separately.
One of the single-most important aspects to having a bird-feeder is vantage point. In the trailer parks I have resided,as a rule, real-estate is a precious and scarce commodity. From the first moment I learn we are relocating, I begin to scour the Internet looking for places that have a comfortable, woodsy feel. There are a lot of RV parks in Texas and they range from treeless gravel No Man's Lands to exclusive, lush, amenity-rich Stepford-esque conclaves. My preferences and budget put me somewhere in a happy medium place between the two extremes.
But I digress...often.
I spend most of my free time in two places in my not-so-roomy confines: At my office desk and in front the kitchen sink hand(!)-washing dishes or preparing meals. (Oh, and if you think my enjoyment of hand washing dishes makes me a freak, read on.) When installing the feeder, I always keep these two vantage points in mind. I have sequestered my studio space away from these windows because it is way too easy for me to become distracted by outside loveliness. However, in my early mornings with coffee in hand, perusing the day's news, I have serendipitous moments of observing the simplicity of the natural order of things. The microcosm attracted to my small lot in life brings me much more inspiring fodder than the seed offered brings those that feed on it. These creatures would certainly thrive in my absence, but I am woeful to think what I would do without this voyeuristic luxury that costs me a mere ten-spot a month.
Birds of all different feathers gather daily in loosely overlapping phases during a typical day in the trailer park. Rain or shine, they congregate, the earliest of visitors being a myriad of small birds like finches, thrushes and sparrows, busily tweeting(in its truest sense) and darting to and fro. In the later days of springtime, they are often accompanied by their baby charges, almost independent but still loud for food and puffed up with down. What these tiny winged ones lack in size, they certainly make up for with their numbers. I would love to interject the social mores of the significance of community, but the simple logical odds of safety in numbers works just fine for them.
Enter the Cardinals and Mourning Doves. The former are loud, brassy and brilliantly colored while the latter are timid, wide-eyed and mottled a rain-cloud grey. Yet, as I have observed, both of these species come to feed with their coupled mate. It is very easy to tell the two cardinals apart; the showy male is an intensely colored red while the female is a dowdy brownish grey with a tint of rouge. The doves are like smokey silvered-mirrored twins, impossible for my amateur eye to distinguish sex or hierarchy. The brash staccato of the red birds is frequent and unmistakable yet, the rare, every once-in-a-while, soulful cooing of the mourning doves leaves a haunting mental echo one doesn't easily forget. I have always had a penchant for the melancholy resonances of life.
After the sun rises just above the horizon line of trees and the morning traffic of the nearby freeway peaks, the squirrels awaken and meander down the trees, stretching as they go. These boisterous creatures are inquisitive, agile and quite entertaining. Some consider them pests to feeders and gardens, but having a life-long affinity for them colors my tolerance otherwise. They have always been the convivial "monkeys of the jungles" that surrounded, composed even, my childhood. I have had the fortunate experience of rehabilitating a few "hurricane babies" during my lifetime. I really must share my experience with my one-time temporary pet squirrel "Rocky."
Just not here and now.
These squirrels, unlike the slender grey ones of my youth, are reddish-brown plump opportunists, full of mischief and ingenious trickery. They mostly fight and squabble amongst themselves, barking and sky-rocketing into squirrel-on-squirrel chases that look more playful than menacing. Come high noon, with their bellies full, they slowly migrate back up to the neck-stretching heights of their nests within the breezy canopy overhead. I have even observed and documented a few winks of a nap by some before their skyward trek.
The only other mammalian to recently grace my small garden has been a lone wild rabbit. This one intrigues me. It likes to feed on the looked-over birdseed that has begun to sprout beneath the feeder. I can only recall observing rabbits in a group, or warren, and in early morning or at dusk. This loner can be seen all throughout the day wandering the well-vegetated grounds. The inquisitive artist in me wants to know this one rabbit's story, to feel a sadness for it that it probably cannot feel for itself. I want to help it find what it might have lost and seems to be looking for in perpetuity.
Robins, Blue Jays, and even the occasional Woodpecker, come 'round as well. The red-breasted Robins come in early Spring and remain on the fringes observing the groupings of birds around the feeder. They are also keen on absconding with the early-arriving caterpillars that can voraciously de-leaf a garden. I have only seen a precious few Woodpeckers and really didn't think them to be seed-eaters. Their drumming is more often heard than they are seen. The Blue Jays arrive much later, the harbingers of early Summer. They are huge in a size comparison to most of the birds I see. They are loud and territorial too. I just discovered that they have the ability, much like the Mockingbird, to mimic the sounds of a hawk as to scare other birds away from their preferred personal space, which just happens to be particularly expansive. I have had the (un)fortunate encounter of seeing two of these bad boys collide mid-air, talons entangled, in a blur of blue.
Last year, I stopped putting seed out for awhile because I witnessed a hawk preying upon the birds gathered at my feeder. Now, I am all about the understanding of the circle-of-life and such, but I felt more like an accomplice of entrapment than the catalyst I wanted to be.
Stupid human guilt. Interposing motive on species that are A) probably far more adapted and evolved than we, and B) are unencumbered by the frailties of an over-developed human sense of self. (oh, and C) THEY CAN FLY!)
By now, you maybe mentally(or literally) eye-rolling and cringing at what is obviously deep-seeded psychoses.
This is free therapy for me, remember?
And, if you call the guys-in-white with the far too 80's strap-and-buckle fashion jacket, I'll know who you are:
All three of you.
From time to time exceptionally different species of birds, rare to me, make sporadic visits to my garden space. Some that even prompt me to scour all of Google to find out more about them, or, at the very least, what they are called. With names like "Painted Bunting," "Vermilion Flycatcher" and "Rose-Breasted Grosbeak" you can imagine the surprised enthusiasm I feel when one of these "odd" birds comes by me. There are still a few I've yet to identify, like the one bird who is reddish-orange in color and has an elongated side-flattened beak and feeds sideways. I am always perplexed by its agility of neck posturing. I could only wish to be as flexible.
Yet, I appreciate them none-the-less for the mere fact that I am observing something entirely foreign to my former and present human experience. I am changing and evolving by the simple act of watching, learning, soaking in and mulling over. I am constantly feeding my hunger for mind-and-soul growth by feeding them some measly seeds.
Bird and squirrel watching is sometimes, most times even, easier than the human fray.
My cynic self often tries to intervene and scoff at my craving for the simplest of things.
I just chuckle back, drink deeply and enjoy the chattered-filled view.