Sunday, August 22, 2010

EULOGY FOR A WARBLER

The morning is cool when I step onto the deck—68 degrees according to the thermometer mounted on the wall by the window. Cloudy, too, with wisps of fog coming off the pool in front of the cottage. Pale tendrils that seem to be reaching from the water, gently testing the soft air above the surface, as if something below might be considering rising out.
Moon the dog ambles into the yard for her usual reconnaissance. I take a seat in the rocker and turn to sit my mug of coffee on the small table near the stone wall…and notice the tiny feathered lump. Another bird fatally fooled by the reflective illusion of the window.
Even in death the warbler is beautiful. It's dainty cloak a mix of black and gray and white, with a bold splash of bright yellow under the throat. It is this rich yellow patch that gives the bird its name, Yellow-Throated Warbler. A common summer species in these sycamore-lined riverine woodlands. Also one of the season's earliest fall migrants. Yellow-Throated Warblers are often making their southward journey by the last week in August.
Was this little fellow so engaged—an innocent traveler on his way to winter quarters? I saw a Yellow-Throated Warbler at the seed feeder day-before-yesterday. This same bird? Did my free eats cause it to hang around too long?
Birds call from every direction—Carolina Wren, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Titmouse, Chickadee. Wind stirs through the treetops, fluttering the big green sycamore leaves. The river slips steadily along, burbling softly as it finds its way over riffle stones.
Life and movement goes on, as it always does. Though not for all.
I notice the fog above the pool has dissipated. Whatever might have been stirring below the surface apparently changed its mind and curled back into the turbid darkness. Or so I imagined on this Sunday morning.
———————

12 comments:

George said...

A magnificent eulogy, Grizz, one that captures beautifully the final morning of this particular yellow-throated warbler. The warblers are such fragile things; sometimes I wonder how they make it through the night. One thing is certain, however -- their departures, whether to the south or some other place in the cosmos, leave us with fine memories of dashing color and incessant birdsong.

I did several postings earlier in the spring about the bluebird that flies into the window of my sunroom with abandon each day -- and I mean forty to fifty times a day. I thought this insanity would come to an end, by means other than the fate your warbler has encountered, but the assaults continue -- even as we close out the last days of August. Such is the nature of things. I suspect my bluebird friend looks at me and thinks that I do some pretty stupid things myself.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

Yes, I remember your bluebird. Amazing that it hasn't learned in all this time.

To hold this little warbler in hand, an exquisite creature of stunning form and color, so delicate that it seems almost impossible to have once been vigorously animate, a living thing rather than merely a figment from a dream—is to confront the mystery of life itself, that unknowable spirit which divides the living from the dead. Can such vibrancy simply disappear? What lies beyond the vale? It's all there in your hand and in that single terribly still form.

KGMom said...

I use a National Wildlife item (or some such organization)--a plastic outline of a raptor that adheres to the window. The idea is that a bird sees the shadow outline and does NOT strike the window.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I can see how that could work on birds that mistakenly keep attacking their reflected image as a rival—which may be the case with George's bluebird. It would certainly be worth a try.

My window situation is caused by its location under a deep roof overhang—nearly 6 feet—which is also in heavy shade. So it is dark. A silhouette couldn't be seen; a plastic anti-decoy hawk or owl would scare the birds away from the feeder.

This is actually the year's first fatality. A couple of years ago I must have had a half-dozen. I tried moving the feeders farther out—which actually made it worse. Then I had an idea. I have a feeder hanging under the eave near my writing room window. Lots of birds flush off this feeder and fly into the window every day—but not one has been killed because the feeder is so close, they simply can't get going fast enough before impact. (At least that's my reasoning.) So this past winter, I tried moving the front feeders—those viewed out the window which the warbler hit—closer to the cottage. That seemed to do the trick; I still have impacts, but only this single bird has been killed. Incidentally, when I didn't have any feeders in the front, birds still smacked fatally into the window fairly often. Because the mirror effect works so well, it just looks like another way through the trees. I think the busy feeders actually cause them to slow down; it's now more like a congested parking lot than a wide-open freeway.

Bernie said...

Love, love, love the humming birds from your previous post. This one I found a bit sad....The death of anything bothers me even though I realize this is all part of life.
Life is fragile for all of us Grizz, a warbler just made me remember.
Have a good week my friend....Hugs

Jayne said...

:c( So sad, but it will happen now and again.

BTW, I know you took those hummer photos from the window, but my comment was meant to convey that they LOOK as if you were a mere inches from them with no glass in front of you. Marvelous! And, I really am sorry about the crappy vision problems. My mom has Fuch's Dystrophy so I understand about the frustration and hope it gets worked out soon.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

A profound Sunday morning - your vision and involvement with nature around is simple and true in the best of ways.

I found that if I put sun catchers on the windows the birds don't fly in to them.

Love to you
Gail
peace and hope.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

As pragmatic as I try to be about the issue of every living thing's inescapable mortality…I can't remove my heart and emotions from the equation—nor do I want to. Life's fragile uncertainty is what makes it so precious. Who ever really knows what a day may bring? Yet I am comforted by the certitude that God's eye is on both warbler and sparrow, and therfore me.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Alas, it is both sad and certain. Wasn't the way I wanted to begin my morning.

I hope you know I was just having fun with you feigning indignation. I did take the desk/window/lily shot, and meant to publish it and really play up the affronted photographer bit—but was technologically flummoxed by Blogger.

Re. vision woes…I'm certainly tried of not being able to see well, but this is just a design and eye conformation issue, and will soon get fixed. I'm doubtless making way to much of it with all my griping and complaining. Your mother's medical problem is genuine and my heart goes out to her. My Mom had glaucoma, and over the years I watched as she gradually but inexorably lost more and more of her sight; a terrible thing to witness.

Anyway, thank you for your always nice comments. I do have a through-the-window shot I think you'll get a kick out of. And I'll try and quit whining so much about my contacts. (I said "try." Don't expect miracles…I'm a guy.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I've tried all sorts of things, including suncatchers—but it's the deep shadow under the eave and tree that really causes the problem with the glass. But like I told Donna (se KGMom above) moving the feeders closer to the window—as counter-intuitive as that sounds—really seems the most effective solution.

Hope you're taking care of your self.

Carolyn H said...

It's so sad when these tiny little things, who somehow manage to fly from South America, don't make it past a window in your (or my) house. Lately, I've been trying yellow highlighter drawn in a cross-hatch pattern across my windows. The highlighter flouresces and appears to work. With yellow, I almost don't see it on my windows.

CarolynH.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn H…

I always feel bad, too—but in all the talking and questioning I've done trying to come up with an answer, I've pretty much decided there isn't one.

However, I really have noticed a huge difference—a dramatic drop in numbers—since moving feeders closer to the window. The funny thing is, there are windows all over he cottage, including the river-facing end which is almost a solid wall of glass, and this single window accounts for every bird fatality. Whether there are feeders within a hundred feet or not doesn't matter; the only thing that makes a difference is attracting a crowd (with free eats) and keeping them close. And I agree it doesn't make much sense.

Still, I might give the yellow markers a try.