Monday, December 22, 2008

FOUR STRONG WINDS and a FUNERAL



Sunday was the worst, with round-the-clock 60 km/40 mile-per-hour blasts off the lake. The wind took the lilac bush in its teeth and shook it like a rag toy, then slung the birdfeeder into the yard, where it skittered across the crusted snow. This morning I picked up the pieces, and determined it was repairable with some wire and duct tape.

All day Sunday a mixed group of smaller birds tucked themselves away on some bushes in the corner of my neighbor’s house, keeping as much out of the wind as possible. A brown-streaked Cooper’s hawk kept hanging around, counting on its very presence to frighten the birds into flight, and thus becoming a meal for the quick-winged accipiter, but if it caught anything on the wing, any showers of feathers would have been whisked away before they could tell their story.

This morning I discovered one small casualty – a beautiful little female redwing blackbird among the lilac suckers. No sign of predation; nothing disturbed. Perhaps she was old, or ill, or maybe the night was just too cold and she succumbed to hypothermia – something that takes many birds each winter. I’ve left her there, perfectly laid out as she was, for her confreres come and pay their respects. And they do; here’s how I know:

Once when I was driving in the Alberta foothills, a flock of goldfinches flew in front of the truck I was behind. I could see what had happened (you never tailgate on those dust-choked backroads if you want to breathe) and gently braked. A female had been hit and dropped straight into the dirt. Instantly, a bright black-and-yellow male turned, flew back to her and perched on her lifeless body. A few other goldfinches gathered at the roadside, waiting for news. He cocked his head, shifted his tiny weight a few times on his slender feet until he had assured himself of whatever it was he sought regarding her, and then they all flew off. Before leaving myself, I scooped up her still-warm body and laid her in some of the weeds she’d loved in life.

13 comments:

Aleta said...

Oh, that's so sad about the bird. When it snowed in New Orleans, the birds over here didn't know what to do. They kept hopping all over the place, as if to say, "Look, we came down South to get away from this white stuff!"

Hoping there aren't many birds hurt this winter season and Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Wren said...

That wind yesterday was something else, wasn't it? I don't think I've ever been anywhere that felt colder.

I agree with Aleta, it's so sad when birds don't make it through the rough weather. I loved your goldfinch story, however, and am now humming the "12 days" with your suggested new words.

Sylvia K said...

Oh, Deborah, I'm so glad I'm not the only one that does things like that. So many little birds around here that are not faring well in this cold. Not just the hungry seagulls! I always love your stories, it doesn't surprise me to learn that you are a serious writer. Best of luck with that by the way, in this coming year.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh how sad, Deborah... Can you only imagine what the Goldfinch thought when he went back to check on the other one??? Poor little thing...

We had a low of 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) here this morning--which is very low for us here in TN. Poor Birdies. They ate me out of house an home today--and I kept refilling the feeders.

Stay warm and out of the weather!!!
Hugs,
Betsy

qualcosa di bello said...

your gentle soul is a warmth to me on this cold winter night...thank you for sharing

Shellmo said...

I am reading this and thinking about the mourning dove I found on my deck this morning that I believed died of hypothermia. I wonder who's missing him right now? So sad about your blackbird and the goldfinch - but nice to hear that the birdies care about each other.

Poetikat said...

It has just been so bloody cold. I hate to think of those little creatures out there, trying to stay warm. We've been away for a couple of days, but tomorrow I shall be throwing out the peanuts and loading up the birdfeeder again ( I think it's empty).

Amazing story about the redwing and the goldfinches. I have often wondered where birds go when they are old -- we don't often see them except after an accident, or when they are preyed upon.

Kat

Lin said...

and then there are the homeless people without shelters...

Squirrel said...

my heated bird bath finally broke, I hope to get a replacement soon for frozen days. poor birds--they use up so much energy when they have to eat snow.

I always feel sad when I see a cat with a bird head or a headless bird lying on the ground, but I don't feel bad when a hawk swoops down and grabs a sparrow. I guess because he's a bird too.

magiceye said...

that was such a poignant tale...
so well narrated

Rose said...

I just hate to see anything suffer...I am always so thankful for the heat that I can turn on with just a flick of a switch.

And always wonder how the birds and animals survive at all in the bitter cold.

fourwindshaiga said...

What a sad story, Deborah. I have seen animals do this on the farm, but never birds.
Sorry to read about the redwing.

Quiet Paths said...

I kept thinking of this post all through Christmas as i watched my Mom's many birds at her feeder. Yes, thank you for such warm thoughts.