Lessons From The Birds

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Our annual circus is in full force. The resident adult Ravens are busy with fledglings and noisily teaching those newbies. We watch the babies learn to hunt by floating on breezes and circling high above (beautiful flyers!). I see them assuage thirst in my horses’ watering troughs, clean and soften food by dunking it (leaving organic residue for me to clean). This adult pair has three juveniles, a communicative bunch. Yesterday, all five were squawking, parked on my horses’ troughs. I wasn’t quick enough to capture all the family in a photo.

This season, these birds particularly are interesting as they shift from caring for a nest to caring for fledglings. Consider the Ravens: They’re gathered, perching around the troughs, as I pass nearby. They watch closely but ignore me. The adults, accustomed to seeing me, don’t consider me a threat. Interesting, because I’m thinking about my recent resident Mountain bluebirds.

That bluebird pair annually nests in my barn where hay is stored. I’m there lots gathering food for the horses. During past weeks, the birds built a nest, sat on eggs, and fed their babies. We took turns entering and leaving the barn. When I gathered hay, the adults didn’t fly in, but sat on an entry gate with food dangling from their mouths and making noises to alert each other and me. I graciously left the barn, not re-entering, until they’d flown inside, up to the nest. Like the Ravens, those bluebirds were cautious and not particularly afraid of me. Then their babies fledged.

As I entered the barn, sudden vicious screams turned me around, in time to see a Mountain bluebird (daddy, for it was very blue) rapidly swooping toward me–feathers spread wide as possible, claws pointed forward–the thing seemed bigger than a Raven! I ducked into hiding. What had happened? On peeking out, I again became under attack. That bird (weighing maybe 3 gms.) appeared bigger-then-life, his mind full of “GTF out of here!”, without any fear whatsoever of me.

The babies must be fledging, I realized, and in a few minutes it was over. The birds had disappeared, parents and babies. I entered the barn, peered cautiously toward the nest, but eerie silence from a spot that had for weeks been noisy. I gazed around–no adults with food, nothing to stop me from being inside my barn–and oh, I missed them.

Often, I’ve watched tiny birds successfully chase big birds. The other day, I saw a couple of Starlings chasing a Red Tailed Hawk. They were threatening enough to keep the hawk scrambling to move away. In previous years, my resident Ravens have teamed to relentlessly chase a Red Tailed, frightening the predatory bird nearly to death. My experience with a seemingly not-so-tiny bluebird illustrates that “smaller and more powerful” does happen.

I suppose at the bottom line, it’s about how our many living differences manage to survive together: the powerful and the less so, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, those who’ve learned and those who are learning.

Dear Readers: We’ve who’ve learned realize that learning never ends. Diana

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