The Pile of Grey Feathers

A brown thrasher, two male towhees, a pile of grey feathers, a pair of ducks. Migration and nesting season means that I never know what I will see when I look out the window this time of year. As it has been cold and dreary, winter’s icy fist has not released and so the magnolia tree’s blossoms are now brown tissue paper frou-frous, dropping to the frozen ground, dreams unfulfilled.

The Brown Thrasher scrapes at the earth like a gardener with a hoe; more specifically this would be a gardener with a purpose to get that piece of ground broken up now- at this moment- no delay. This bird has a reason to work so quickly because it has over 1100 songs to sing, repeating each once before moving to the next. The Thrasher is fierce so if it nests in the shrubs or low growth in my backyard, and I come upon their nest, him and her will have no compunction about stabbing me in the hand, foot, whatever with their beak. And I will get the message, you can be sure.


The towhees are a one-off I am sure. Here and gone, on their way to someplace else, Traverse City perhaps or maybe all the way to Canada. I just hope the birds remember to visit on the way back south. I do not mind that I might be viewed as a way-station, only fit for a couple nights stay. Sigh.


We have come to the moment of quiet, the pile of grey feathers, probably  the remains of a morning dove, the slow moving large ground feeding pigeon-like birds. Our backyard has attracted several small hawks that can maneuver through the trees and houses. The Cooper’s Hawk or the Sharp Shined Hawk have both been known to hunt the birds at feeders causing many backyard bird feeders to question if they are doing the right thing by offering available seed in the open. In the winter, it is particularly a stark situation with the bare trees, the white ground, and the moving, sometimes colorful birds. I have seen the older hawks perch on tree branches near the feeder and wait patiently. I have also witnessed juvenile hawks perch at the top of the feeder pole on the off-chance he will catch a bird coming for dinner.


But on the day in question, our morning dove did not move fast enough and was the hawk’s meal which was eaten in the backyard, at least partially. That is a dilemma for back yard bird feeders; can you accept that you are altering nature in a small way? By feeding the birds, I am changing patterns, creating patterns. But I have already done that a million times over and over. I do not know the answer; we humans are such a big, long lived species.

But here’s the good news. The pair of ducks that seem to be making a home in my backyard knew what to do with that pile of grey feathers. Seems those feathers were perfect for nest building. And thus life circles around and around.







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