Friday, December 05, 2008

Grackles and Broadwing

Yesterday morning...

I sat at the breakfast table with the morning light on my back. I felt, more than saw, the shadow near the back of my head. There was a loud smack, I uttered an expletive and ducked reflexively. Turning to look, there was a broadwing hawk recovering itself in mid air, just three feet from my face, and just on the other side of the window. This was the second time the hawk had slammed into it after missing a dove perched on top of the feeder.

So I have to find a new location for it. I can't continue to rely on the screen on the outside of the window to save the hawks life and keep the glass from crashing in on my head. They seem much larger when they are three feet from my face, flapping wildly to keep from falling to the ground. Striking and beautiful, the striped tail stands out in my mind after the hawk glides through the branches of the white oak and off into the woods.

A few minutes later, a gazillion grackles take over this side of Whites Creek Gorge. I tell my wife that it's at least TWO gazillion but I'm going with the more conservative figure for this account. It's way more than a shitload, for sure. The grackles are everywhere, on every branch, constantly moving, boiling three dimensionally to the ground, to the trees, from branch to branch, descending on any tree where one of them looks like it has found something to eat. Suddenly the ground is swarming, suddenly it has only a few birds in it but the trees have grown black leaves everywhere, and a few brown ones. It is like the noisiest locust swarm ever, oozing through the forest, boiling almost. For a half hour I watch them, erratic in their motion but moving, nonetheless, in one direction as a whole, up the creek, and eventually it is still and the noise gets more distant.

The cat is in shock, hiding under my car in the driveway. She is still under there 45 minutes later when I come out to leave for town. Normally she swaggers out to receive adulation but this morning she bolts around the house and under the porch where the dogs have taken refuge. They have gathered closely together to await their fate, the whim of a gazillion grackles.

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