Yesterday, Hubby and I were driving about the valley on our way home after a little outing and couldn’t help noticing all the beautiful pink and white trees, some juxtoposed against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains in the distance. Now exactly when had that happened? Everywhere I looked there were tulips and daffodils and crocus. It was as though I’d been asleep for a week and just woke up after a long winter nap. Even the bottom or our neighborhood boasts their offerings of those same pink and white trees. One, a tulip tree was practically groaning under the weight of its heavy blossoms only slightly brown-tinged from the effects of last week’s spring snowstorm.
Even at home, sunshine and warmth has invaded our space. The tulips we planted in the fall are beginning to let their colors show through. The cherry, apple, apricot, and almond trees are all in full spring regalia. It was such a fabulous awakening, Hubby decided he wouldn’t wait just one more week to be sure no more snow was in sight before we set the outdoor swingset up.
Just before suppertime, everything was in place and we sat swinging, feeling very smug and enjoying the last rays of sunshine. Slowly we became aware of a horde of gambel quail sashaying across the back yard to disappear through the fence into the neighbor’s yard. All couples, no babies yet, and we assumed they had come down from the hills behind us to find suitable nesting in the dense oak thatches there. Hubby has been hacking away at our oak thickets so as to let more sunshine in for the fruit trees and wild roses, so they aren’t as private for nesting as they were last year perhaps. Or maybe they liked the new water display over there and prefer it over my old frying pan troughs for their daily summer drinks this year.
Anyhow, we were enjoying the quail parade, watching as they stopped for a few moments to gather the seed droppings from the feeder on the way, when I was reminded of Rima from W. H. Hudson’s classic novel, GREEN MANSIONS (1904), which I have have just re-read, about 40 years since the first time. Despite the writing style, it’s still a wonderful and romantic story. Rima lived with her grandfather, totally isolated somewhere in a Peruvian forest, and consequently learned to speak the language of the birds and animals. As I listened to the clicks the quails were making, and remembered how they’ll use those same sounds to communicate to their babies later on, I was thinking how I’d like to be Rima and understand how one click can mean something quite different from another click, seeing as how they all sounded the same to me.
Suddenly, another bird added to the cacophony, more piercing and menacing than any quail click I ever heard. Magpies! Big, monstrous but beautiful birds (20 inches to the Quail’s 11) came swooping from their perches atop the utility poles and treetops, chasing the quail away, their angry cries only a beak’s length away from the quickly retreating quail. They kept making one and another and another mad dashes at the poor quail who were moving as quickly as they could I dare say, back through the fence, across our yard, and into the waning but better than nothing foilage of our back yard.
Magpies remind me of some people I’ve known. They are extremely intelligent and resourceful opportunists. They flip items over to look for food, follow predators, and sometimes steal food from other birds. AND, they look at themselves in mirrors, bird experts say, and they make me so mad. Of course the bullies will probably be over in our yard, later today no doubt, to chase the courting quail from from our yard.
Plus, now that the swing set is back on the deck with its fabric cushions, I’m sure it won’t take them long to re-discover possible new nesting material they’ll stoop to stealing again just as they did in the fall. I sure wish I could speak like Rima the birdgirl. I’d give those Magpies a piece of my mind.