Monday, July 12, 2010

Ornithological Broodings

It has been quite a bountiful brood-raising spring and summer so far here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. The Colonel fancies himself an amateur ornithologist, fascinated by our feathered friends and their free flights and frequent feeder visits, above and aboard Eegeebeegee. Much of the Colonel's leisure is engaged in avian antic appreciation.

Last year, the immediate surroundings of the Big House here at the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State--a virtual republic, founded as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek--hosted the nesting activities of several species of feathered fauna. This year, a pair of barn swallows returned to and improved upon last summer's mud nest under the eaves of the front porch.

They brought friends.

Three other pairs of barn swallows joined the first and as the Colonel writes this frantically boring missive, the four parental pairs are busily feeding four identical broods of four ravenous chicks in mud nests under the four corners of the Big House's porch eaves.

A word of warning to the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon and might be interested in hosting your own breeding pair: barn swallow progeny poop prodigiously. In barely a day's time, four swelling swallows can process parental food offerings and manufacture a surprisingly large messy mound of manure below their nest.

It is, however, a small poopy price to pay for pest control.

One of the parental duties of a brood-raising barn swallow is the discouragement of all other creatures from a thirty-foot radius of their nests with a chattering swoop within inches of the interloper's brain-housing-group. Matters not who or what the interloper is. The Colonel's grandsons--The Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes One and Two (H21CC-1 & 2)--are regular dive bombing targets. As are the rabbits which ease up to raid the flower beds guarding the front porch of the Big House.

The Colonel, who has been forbidden from firearmed rabbit removal by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, wishes there was a way to surreptitiously arm barn swallows with miniature cotton-tail seeking rockets.

Not to be outdone, eastern bluebirds have already produced one brood earlier this spring (despite an indigo snake's attempted/prevented predation) and three more broods are peeping and pooping in the boxes at the periphery of the Gardens at Eegeebeegee. Unable to poke pooping posteriors out of their nest like the barn swallows, eastern bluebird chicks depend on their parents to carry away the waste product of insects brought to feed them. While the Colonel often envies birds' wings, current grandson diaper duty makes him thankful for hands.

Early in the spring, the first pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds met at a feeder on the back porch. A half-dozen other pairs have since joined them. The Colonel has been unable to find their diminutive domiciles, but has begun to notice their progeny at the sugar-water feeders. How can one tell young hummingbirds from their parents, you ask? Easy. The immature ones are always sticking their tongues out.

In addition to these favorites, a pair of mockingbirds raised a brood in a bush right outside the door to the back porch. The Colonel is not a big fan of mockingbirds. Turns out they aren't big fans of the Colonel. H21CC-1 & 2, however, were able to daily inspect the progress of the mockingbird chicks with impunity. Momma mockingbird obviously did not have the Colonel's clear understanding of the destructive power inherent in two small boys.

At this point in this pointless parade of paragraphs, at least one of the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon is bursting with the question: "What about the chickens?"

The Colonel is proud to announce that his Local War on Barnyard Fowl Predation has kept the Chickens of Eegeebeegee safe for two full months since the last attack. The Colonel would also like to take this opportunity to announce the latest addition to the domestic flock here at the Center of the Universe. Two nondescript ducklings, named Archie and Peyton by the Colonel's Manning-mad daughter, have joined the growing menagerie of mouths aboard the capitol grounds of the Tallahatchie Free State. She wanted them for her birthday.

Interesting side-story regarding the Colonel's favorite daughter's birthday. Born on the 5th of July, she had long lamented that she had not been born a day earlier so that she could share her adopted country's birthday. When she got old enough (21) to understand the concept of the International Dateline--no slam intended; the Colonel didn't figure it out until he was thirty--the Colonel informed his delighted favorite daughter that while it was indeed the 5th of July where she was born (Hong Kong) it had actually been the 4th of July here in the good ole re-United States.

So, last weekend she asked for, and got for her birthday, a pair of ducks to raise here on the farm.

Guess it could have been worse--she initially wanted goats.
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