Saturday, December 13, 2008

Woodruff Trivia: Birds

There was a big spruce tree between the two houses in Watervliet (probably still is). Dick was disturbed by a big racket being made up in the tree by a blue jay and a robin. He assumed the blue jay was harassing  the robin in its nest so he got a gun and shot the blue jay, but it turned out that the robin was harassing the blue jay and that he had just made orphans of some baby blue jays. Well he felt (a) like shit and (b) responsible for the baby jays so he made them a nest in a shoe box I think. I don't think the babys made it, maybe Patty knows.
At the River House I have a bird feeding station out behind. One spring I was looking out back and there was a male and a female cowbird eating my sunflower seeds.( the male has a black head, the female is all brown). I don't like cowbirds because they don't raise their own offspring . The female spys a song bird nest and when the female leaves the nest to feed or whatever the female cowbird sneaks in and lays an egg. The cowbird egg hatches first and the hatchling grows fast and shoves the song bird's eggs or babies out of the nest and the poor dumb song bird ends up wearing herself out feeding the baby cowbird that soon is bigger than she is. I keep an anti-cowbird pellet gun over the shop door all pumped up and loaded and ready to shoot (it has a telescope sight). So I pull down the gun and zero in on the female and pop! down she goes and she's flopping around on the ground. The male who has been unable to get any action from the female thinks he has gotten lucky and promptly mounts the flopping female. Heartless, I zero in on the humping male and pop! he's had it. But you just know that cowbird died happy.
In 1948 Dad, Dick and I went pheasant hunting in South Dakota. Dad was the family diplomat as we called him. We would pull in a barnyard and Dad would go find the landowner to get permission to hunt on his place. You know Dad, he was very good at such interactions. He usually carried a bottle in his hunting coat in case the negotiations needed lubricating. This one place where we stopped had big corn fields backed up to the James River (the natives called it the Jim River). Dad went up to the house (or barn, I forget which) and was gone an unusually long time. Finally here he came, we had permission but he appeared somewhat loaded. We didn't find out how loaded until we got to the end of the corn rows and out flushed a bunch of pheasants. We all shot and Dad got one but it landed on the other side of the river. Without the slightest hesitation he put down his gun and walked into the water and waded across to the other side and disappeared into the weeds. Shortly here he came, wet to the waist, dead pheasant in hand with a kind of silly grin on his face. He was plucking out fearthers as he waded back kind of like the little girl pulling petals from a flower saying  "he loves me, he loves me not". As I remember we didn't hunt any more that day even though we hadn't taken our limit. He was a vigorous 50 at the time.
Elaine's Mother Ruth Belke had a blue parakeet named Skippy. She taught it to say "Hiya Baldy". (Originally emailed June 3, 2008)

1 comment:

The Topologist, said...

From Patricia Geisler:

Don't recall that blue jay incident, but the trees are indeed there. (The 2 on the west side we cut down one Tgiving in the 80's.) One of the spruces is so big, I wonder how much longer we may be able to keep it. My dad always said they were xmas trees from your childhood.

Probably we will have to cut the big old catalpa this year--it appears mostly dead. I want to keep the stump intact and in place for a "table". We saw a pilliated woodpecker working on it last fall.

We stomped around the river property over Memorial Day weekend. There is an oak along the bluff there that has got to be one of the biggest in the area. The north side is flattish--immense.

Of the 7 birches Grandpa planted (some from Northport, I believe) west of the barn, only the multiple in the chicken coop corner and one other are still alive--the rest are cut down. (Richard brings his chainsaw whenever he comes to Michigan.)

The beech tree west of the house is becoming huge, and the ash tree at the corner of the driveway too. (I want to get the stuff called Tree-age to try to fend off the emerald ash borers.)

John's pin oak in front, which I think he planted to replace an elm formerly located to its west, is getting big too. (Johnny and Allen collected acorns from that tree a couple of times as teenagers--they had some way to sell them.) I remember Grandpa dynamiting the stump of that elm.

The dawn redwood east of the house was struck by lightning 6-19-01 and destroyed. We found two baby ones at the farmer's market in Madison, WI when we were in town for drum corps finals in 06, and replaced the old one + put one where the multiple birch between us and the church was. They are still small, but growing nicely.