Monday, August 3, 2009
I just looked at my Blogger home page and realized it's been a full week since I posted anything here. That's pure neglect on my part, since it's certainly not for lack of things to report. Mid-to-late summer is the best time of year for critter watching. In the past few days I've encountered 4 spotted fawns with their mamas, a half dozen turkey families (baby ducks and geese have nothing on turkey chicks for cuteness), and one glorious summer tanager that defeated all my efforts to photograph him.
All those sightings were in the park, but the best show has actually been going on outside my kitchen window, where the adolescent mockingbirds are learning how to do what mockingbirds do best--and no, it's not singing. Mockingbirds do sing a lot, but like many humans who are eager to sing, they don't do it very well. Anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to have a male MB park himself nearby during mating season can tell you that "pleasing" is not the proper adjective for the mockingbird voice.
What mockingbirds do best is fight. They're particularly feisty during the nesting season, but they remain ready to rumble all year long. They love to fight each other, but they will happily fight other birds, squirrels, dogs, and occasionally people. Even felines are not safe. A few years ago we had a gray warrior at the house who would dive and snatch at cats whenever they made the mistake of wandering into his territory. You'd think a cat with any self-respect at all would have made short work of him. But no, the kitties invariably ran away, looking very put upon. Don't mess with the mockingbird.
All the teenage birds in my backyard these days are flexing their muscles and figuring out how much fun it is to win. They bully for the sheer joy of it. Jays and starlings will stage a feeder raid so they can hog the food, the mockingbirds will swoop down to terrorize the sparrows and finches just so they can perch on the post and spread their wings in victory. Yesterday I saw a mockingbird chasing a slow-moving black vulture across my neighbor's field. As far as I know, vultures present absolutely no threat to mockingbirds. I think Junior was just getting a kick out of harrassing a bird so much bigger than himself.
Of course, there's no blood shed during these encounters, and not even a meal at stake. Still, it strikes me as a little odd that I find all this violent behavior so charming in the mockingbirds. I'd despise it in a human being, or even a dog.
Photo of Northern Mockingbird from Wikimedia Commons.