A few days ago I bundled up against the wind and stepped out into my back yard to watch another large flock of migrating birds go by—double-crested cormorants this time. As I rounded the corner of the porch, my heart sank to see a tiny bird lying at the foot of the window. I leaned over its body to see if perhaps it was just temporarily stunned, but even as I bent down, something in it’s posture told me there was no life there. I’m always sad when any bird dies from hitting my windows, even a sparrow or a starling, but this little one was darkly beautiful in deep midnight colors studded with moon-bright patches of white—a male black-throated blue warbler—and those are much less plentiful than the common brown birds of my yard. Each one is precious to the overall population. I scooped him up in my hand, turned to the window, found the place where he'd hit. The window reflection itself was dulled from the wind-carried Erie spray, and covered with a screen on top of that: there was nothing that could have been done to prevent his fatal misperception. But it’s still a sad event. He was an adult male, not a juvenile, so he likely had offspring this year. But there are so many perils waiting for nestlings so small, with parents so defenseless. Predators, diseases and bad weather can all take their toll. And for wood warblers, nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds is always a threat. I wondered what had befallen this little fellow’s family.
Back inside, in the coffee-scented warmth of my house, I couldn’t shake thoughts of the little warbler's life and death. It reminded me of Darwin’s finches. I’ve always loved it that those unspectacular little birds were the ‘Eureka’ moment for him, showing him how each generation sends forth its genes into the unknown, and shapes the descendants in that future by their ability to adapt. What of my little black-throat outside, now lying in the hand of the garden Buddha? Was his inability to judge as false the world he saw in the streaky, screen-shadowed window truly non-adaptive? Or was it more likely an unaccountable accident of fate, no different from a squirrel randomly stumbling upon a nest full of piping babies? I wonder if these mysteries ever troubled Darwin. Whatever the answer may be, I was sorry for one migration and life that came to such an abrupt end in my yard. I hope his beautiful genes survive him out there somewhere.
The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.