Shaddup already with the tweeting!
No, not THOSE tweets from Washington (though, come to think of it, we all could do without them) but the ones in my back yard, where some birds have been driving me nuts with nonstop squawking, shrieking, whistling, and screeching.
After a morning run and very quick dip in the pond the other morning, I brought ingredients outside for a relaxing respite: Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries, blackberries, bananas, a couple whole wheat pita pockets, a mug of licorice spice tea and a Rex Stout murder-mystery paperback.
The sun had just risen above the evergreens, bathing our south-facing deck in luxurious warmth as I settled down with a happy sigh on a cushioned Adirondack chair.
Suddenly, at about 140 decibels:
Those blankety-blank cardinals were at it again.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like birds and am delighted the woods around us are filled with so many varied species: red-tail hawks, barred owls, turkey vultures, wild turkeys, blue jays, crows, ravens, chickadees, woodpeckers, catbirds, mourning doves, even an occasional bald eagle.
Although I may delight in cardinals’ dazzling plumage — flashes of iridescent crimson against a backdrop of pine and spruce boughs — they can be the most annoying things that fly in the forest, except perhaps for mosquitoes, black flies and drones.
Loyal readers may recall that, a few years ago, one particularly territorial female repeatedly rapped its beak on our windows like a jackhammer from dawn to dusk all spring and summer, thinking its reflection was an interloper. Talk about “bird-brained.”
We finally had to tape paper over almost every pane of glass, turning the inside of the house into a dungeon.
This time of year, cardinals, like virtually all critters, are either trying to attract mates or drive away rivals.
Let’s face it: They don’t sing because they’re happy. If we could translate their ear-splitting whistles into English, the conversation, which can carry hundreds of yards between trees, might go something like this:
“Hey, baby — if you’re looking for a good time, why don’t you fly over to my nest.”
“In your dreams, buster! I’m not that kind of cardinal.”
“Come on! I’ve been preening for hours. Plus, I’ve dug up some fresh worms.”
“Hmm, worms, you say …”
“… and seeds! Who doesn’t love seeds!”
On the other hand, the whistled exchange could be translated this way:
“Back off, jack!”
“Sez me! You wanna make something of it?”
“OK, I fly over I’ll give you a whuppin' you won’t soon forget!”
“Yeah, you and whose army?”
Meanwhile, all I hear is:
On the other hand, maybe I’m not giving the birds enough credit by overly anthropomorphizing their avian exchanges into baser impulses.
Wouldn’t it be a hoot if this was what they were actually communicating:
“Is it just me, or does anyone else find that whole ‘ontology recapitulates phylogeny’ debate rather tedious.”
“At last! A voice in the wilderness! Exactly my thoughts! Slightly off topic, what about Helmholtz and the problem of externality in perception? I mean really …”
“No kidding! I totally get what he was trying to say with his theories on the conservation of energy and a mechanical foundation of thermodynamics, but once he veered off into the science of aesthetics — well, sorry, Hermann von, but you totally lost me …”
“Say, why don’t we continue this discussion over some worms and seeds?”
So tweet away, cardinals. I guess the best solution is to do what we should do when others go a-twitter: Wear earplugs.
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