Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wild and Crazy

Up on MacKenzie Drive the foxes established at Wally’s old house continue to entertain. The bravest of the pups emerges from the basement den to look us over, wondering who the heck we are and what we’re up to. Last year a pair of two-legged squatters briefly occupied the vacant house before the RCMP showed up. I find the current squatters substantially more appealing, but wonder what Wally would make of it all. If he still walked among us the old guy would be 102. I like to imagine he’d be okay with his forsaken homestead being used for the raising of another young family before the old place finally melts back into Mother Earth. But the truth is, I doubt he’d be amused at all.

A pair of northern parulas -– one of the more attractive of our breeding wood warblers -– has set up housekeeping very near the camper, just up the hill from the cabin. The male seems to spend half the day singing his brains out, announcing to the world at large and especially to males of his own kind that he is king of the hill, cock of the walk, master of all he surveys. But all is not rosy in Parulaland. The handsome young fellow and his devoted mate are driven to distraction by a pair of rivals identically determined to establish themselves in the same territory. A sort of trench warfare is underway: the established pair keep launching attacks on the adversaries. The enemy gives as good as he gets -- exactly and precisely.

The rivals invariably appear in the same place: in the camper window opposite their nest. The window relates the history of the war in rich detail: bits of feather, various smears and stains. No matter how relentless the foes or futile their attacks, the parulas persevere. No light bulb turns on. No epiphany flashes. The warblers do not get -– nor will they ever -– that their enemy is their own reflection. It gets me wondering what sort of analogies apply to our own species: what sort of endless futility is pursued by H. sapiens that intellects of a higher order watch, scratch their heads about, perhaps even find laughably crazy.

Other birds entertain. Bigadore is a nursery not just for parulas but several other warblers -- black-and-white, magnolia, myrtle, Blackburnian, black-throated green, ovenbird –- not to mention the cast of thrushes, sparrows, finches and others. Their deeds to the place may be not registered at the county office in Baddeck but I recognize them as being at least as compelling as the one that is. Bigadore is a wildlife sanctuary without the formal designation. The first owl of the season -– a monosyllabic barred –- hollered from a nearby perch in the wee small hours a couple of nights ago. Squirrels rattle their challenges to one another. Snowshare hares -– their snowshoes still showing traces of winter white -– don’t say anything at all. They munch on the grass and imagine that standing stock still makes them invisible. Are they nervous when the nearby coyotes yip in the night? Footprints reveal the presence of bobcat in the neighbourhood, unseen to date. We shall keep our eyes peeled. There is one wildlife species I could do without: hordes of blackflies threaten to carry us off whenever we stand still. John Muir would argue that what is good for black flies is even better for warblers. I shall try to bear that in mind.

1 comment:

Mary Sanseverino said...

A very fine post -- it reminds me of Aldo Leopold. Sorry to hear about the black flies. The midgies have not yet made an appearance here in Scotland (for which I am VERY thankful). They may be quite late this year as it has been a cold spring.

Keep an eye on those foxes -- it will be fun to see how they grow and change.