Not a very pretty sky today, but still, that crow is a sure sign of spring. It flew to the tree carrying a big stick in its beak, which it promptly dropped whilst I went to grab the camera. Birds are so uncooperative when it comes to photos. I took the shot anyway, because my friend, Cathy, loves pictures of crows, and crows with sticks mean nest building, and that means it’s officially spring.
There have been other birdy signs as well. The farmer down the lane, Simon, trimmed the hedgerows of his field last week, flushing a harem of pheasant hens from the woods in the process. I’m sure there’s a proper name for a group of pheasants (covey, pehaps?) but I always think of groups of pheasant females as harems. The males put the call out this time of year, making a sound somewhere between a turkey gobble and a rusty gate, which the females follow. The male collects a half a dozen or so females, or more, I’m sure, if he can get them, and then passes along his genes in the time honored fashion. What is that, if not a harem?
We had a male pheasant in the garden on Mayday, a couple of years ago. It making quite a racket, the strange cry punctuated with a frantic beating of wings, and it took us a while to figure out the source of the noise. Once we did, we opened the back door very carefully, and tip-toed our way into the garden, armed with a camera and bread crumbs, hoping to convince him to stay. He not only stayed, he made clucking noises, like a chicken, while he snacked, and thoughtfully posed for pictures. He must have been hand-reared, he was so tame, and though he wouldn’t eat from our hands, he did get very close.
This close. Such a gorgeous shade of russet, we named him Rusty, as much for the sound he makes, as his color. We never fed him again, knowing that if he was hand-reared, it was a for a specific purpose, and one probably involving firearms and a recipe served “under glass”. Once we’d named him, we decided it would be a good idea if he learned not to be so very trusting of humans. Since that Mayday in the garden, all male pheasants, the ones we see, and the ones we only hear, off in the distant woods, are Rusty.
The other returning bird friend this year is Don, named for the Quixote who tilted at windmills. Our Don is a little testosterone fueled Great Tit; a fast mover, camera shy and so stupid, he flies at his own reflection in the windows thinking, presumably, it’s another male. He woke us one morning, last spring, pecking at the bedroom window, and repeated the performance over many weeks, at various windows of the house.
Apparently, Don’s back (it has to be the same one, as I can’t imagine two Tits this incredibly dumb), though he seems to be favoring the garage windows instead this year, poor dear. Unless he figures it out soon, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be adding to the local gene pool. Probably a mercy, that.
All in all, it seems to be quite a heavily-sexed little valley we’re living in, this time of year. But don’t take my word for it. Please, listen for yourself.[audio:http://libsyn.com/media/randomlengths/SexOn2Wings.mp3]