Edge of the Earth Rd. Journal
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Phil relaxing on the porch and
watching the birds at
Edge of the Earth Rd.
The Nature of Nature
April 30, 2002
    I have always loved the quote from Annie Dillard in her book, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," which says, "Anyone who says Nature is beautiful has never really looked closely at Nature."

     It has certainly been true the last 48 hours here at Edge of the Earth Rd.

     I have over the past few weeks revisited "
The Post."  The E. Bluebirds won the battle against the Chickadees.  Twice I visited for thirty minutes at a time and saw no activity, which made me wonder if the battle did not end in a draw and thus "no winners."  Not the case.  This afternoon, I watched as male and female E. Bluebirds flew to "The Post" with juicy worms in their beaks.  It is, however, a zero-sum game they played.  For one to win, the other must lose.  Alas for the Chickadees.

     Yesterday afternoon while heading home the back way, I found a Savannah Sparrow snared in a barbed wire barb.  He was hanging upside down and struggling furiously.  When I got to him, I found one foot nothing but a bloody pulp.  Trying to extract him was difficult as I had to twist him in the opposite direction of which he had become entangled.  I was surprised at the amount of yellow throughout this bird.  The head, certainly, but the inside of the wings was brilliant with it.  All the way through the process, the sparrow bit me, which was not really a bite at all.  Now a Cardinal.... THAT's a bite, but not the Savannah.  I talked to him, explaining what I was trying to do.  He put even more effort into biting as if my words were inflammatory.  Finally, I got him disentangled.  I have heard stories of birds with only one foot that did quite well so I opened my hand and offered freedom.  He flew as if nothing were wrong with him.  I wished him well while seriously doubting his future.

     Late last night, I went outside to take a look at the stars, see if the raccoons had showed up yet, and to revel in the warmth of the spring evening.  I felt something fly by my ear.  I instinctively flinched and waved at the apparition with my hand.  Soon it was back again.  I couldn't get rid of it.  I flailed at the air but still it attacked.  My ear began to burn, then insult was added to injury when the small section of skin that was bare just above my hip got "zapped."  I cursed the gods and ran inside.  My wife looked at the damage.  "You've got small pieces of flesh missing on your rear and your ear," she said, with more amusement than I would wish.  She was laughing even harder as she applied hydrogen peroxide to each wound.  Figure it was a "horse fly."  Had no idea they were out at night.  I like insects but if I could have found this one, he would have wished for the mafia to deal with him rather than I.

     The only consolation I had to this episode was when my wife in the morning found a small brown bug treading water in the dishpan.  We like bugs.  She carefully picked it out of the water to take it outside.  It bit her!!  To her credit, she held no grudge and flung it into the voracious belly of nature itself.

     Headed home this afternoon, I saw three crows chasing a Red-tailed Hawk.  Nothing unusual about that except that the hawk had something in its talons.  I slowed quickly which caused the three dogs who were riding with me to catapult to the floorboard.  They all looked at me as if I had done it on purpose.  "A hawk," I told them.  They glared.  Definitely going to have to learn canine right after I learn Spanish.  I got a good look at what it had.  It was a squirrel save for the head.  I like squirrels.  I put out an ear of corn for them everyday and never begrudge them their fill at the bird feeders.  They are survivors in a world that does not treat small mammals well.  I respect that in them.  I am sure the Red-tail did, too, right after he finished eviscerating lunch.

     Finally, I come to the last item.  A pair of E. Phoebes had built a nest above the door of our garage apartment.  I heard quite a commotion this morning and went out to find out what was going on.  The Phoebes were frantic as they flew at the nest, hovered in the air around it, and then went back to the oak tree nearby only to begin doing the same again and again.  I looked in the nest.  In it was a Bullsnake.  A very, very big Bullsnake.  I like snakes.  I've put out "bedding" areas for them with plywood, straw, and wood chips.  I also like E. Phoebes which nest here every year.  I approached the nest with the Phoebes flying around my head like mosquitoes.  It was too late.  The Bullsnake had already snacked on all the nestlings.  He/she (?) looked at me with what looked like a satisfied smile.  I told him/her, "No, no!" just like I do the dogs, with basically the same result.  I know that look; it says, "Huh?"

     After the snake had left, I watched the Phoebes.  They visited the nest a few times, then both landed in the oak tree by the garage.  They preened.  Finally the male began to fly around the female with flirting displays.  So much for grieving.

     Thus ends the tale of the last 48 hours here at Edge of the Earth Rd.  Tough times all around.  Tragedy, pain, and insult.

     I go back to Annie Dillard's quote.  I know exactly what she is saying.  Nature is not a children's playground.  Lethal is a good word to describe the goings-on.  Look closely at it and you will see it.

     It's beautiful.

     Good birding, friends.

(c) Copyrighted by Phil Floyd 2002