Thursday, May 8, 2008

Birds of Hillside Avenue

My yard's ecosystem causes a chain reaction at first light each day, which was around 5 this morning. Birds start chirping, which awakens my cat, who begins purring and batting at me, which awakens my dog, who begins leaping over me to play with the cat, which makes further sleep an impossibility, at least until I get out of bed, let the dog out, and feed them both. The birds chirp through all of this, oblivious.

This is my first spring living in a house in a semi-wooded area. I've got a lot of trees here, so also a lot of birds, deer, insects, chipmunks, squirrels (even an albino squirrel), weeds, you name it. Just a lot of nature. I'm much more used to pavement. Birds are, of course, everywhere, it just feels like my yard is their ground zero. I started noticing them a month ago, with the arrival of cardinals. Here's how much I know about birds: cardinals are the only species I can tell by sight. I borrowed a bird book from a neighbor, but by the time I begin flipping through it looking for a picture the bird I'm trying to identify is gone, so I'm not even sure how many species I've got hanging out here, awakening the household each morning.

This morning featured a deafening symphony or riot, depending on your point of view, which lasted for approximately an hour, at which point it began to rain and everything quieted down. This led me to wonder two things: why do birds chirp at dawn but not all day long, or at sunset? And what do birds to when it rains?

The answer to the first question follows common sense, something I wouldn't have attributed to birds. Obviously they don't sing at night because it's dark and they don't want predators to know where they are and attack when they can't see. They chirp at dawn to let their enemies know that they've survived the night and still retain their territory, and to let their friends know that they're available for some afternoon delight. By mid-day they're busy with other things, like nesting and feeding, which are solitary pursuits. Then they go to sleep, obviously much earlier than I and obviously needing much less rest than I, otherwise they wouldn't be awake at 5 AM.

When it rains, birds hide under branches and leaves, but even if there's no cover they're ok, because their feathers are water-resistant. All they have to do is shake and the water is gone. They can fly in the rain because they have a special membrane that repels water, a sort of natural pair of goggles.

So there you have it - all the question you didn't have about birds in the first place conveniently answered for you. I'm still left with the problem of being awakened in the middle of the night, though. A crazy cat person's posse would seem to be the only solution.


CCL said...

When you try to identify birds, in addition to looking at the colors, try to take notice of the shapes of their tails, the shape and length of their beaks, and their profile if they're flying. That should help you figure out what they are with the help of your bird book. Then you'll know if they're tasty tidbits for your cat or dangerous predators.

tunsie said...

where I stay now is in downtown,I don't hear birds.I hear the street lights humming,when I am in sydney,the capital of the world,we had exotic birds at the house all the time.They mad sqwauking sounds in the morning,and then I would awaken and have passion fruit,vegemite,and porridge with assorted fruit,and coffeeand fresh squeezed juice.ornithology is a jazz song made famous by charlie parker.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie

Beth said...

Tunsie, did you ever know of an Australian-Lebanese jazz singer called Bonnie Montgomery? She'd be in her 70's now. She did come to New York to perform and now lives way up on the Delaware R.

tunsie said...

I know many jazz musicians in australia personally.I never heard of bonnie montgomery.while I was there word spread quickly that I was involved in a jazz club and every musician met me.I will ask when I call home if anyone knows of her.beth,I don't know u but my girlfriend, who still smokes by the way, tells me that u come 2 all my shows.thank u 4 enjoying good music with me.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie