A couple of upbeat bird bits

Dear President Biden,

Here are two squarely upbeat bird bits from this past weekend – I figure we both need a break from the mayhem, right?

First, the parade of geese.

Saturday morning Laura, dog Buddy, and I were driving through the UW campus on the way to her office to pick up some stuff she needed. We were on the part of the main drag that crosses the central grand lawn that opens the campus up to vistas of Mt. Rainier to the Southeast. We had dutifully stopped at the first flashing stop sign and waited while some human pedestrians crossed and were approaching the second flashing stop sign just on the other side of the lawn when the first gaggle of geese entered that second crosswalk. There were probably about 15 in the first clump, some making a beeline for the other side and some wandering a bit, taking their time.

There are fairly tall bushes lining the sidewalk on either side of the street, sort of framing the lawns. The way the space is configured, from a car, one can’t see whether anyone or anything shorter than about 3 feet is coming. So over and over it happened that there were long, long no-goose intervals and it would seem like we could finally go when another goose or three would appear from behind the bush and start across the street and then another two or three and so on. It might have really only happened five times, but it seemed like a lot more. We could hear someone on the sidewalk behind us – probably filming on his phone – narrating the whole thing, complete with bemused chortles. In the opposing lane the first car was a Seattle police SUV and behind them the line of cars steadily stacked up. I have no idea how many cars were behind us.

In all, we think there were about 30 geese and it probably took a full five minutes – maybe 8 – for all of them to strut across the street and up onto the opposite sidewalk. When we were finally able to move and drove past the police officer, the amused smile he flashed suggested that he too would have been content to watch another 30 geese do their thing. Even those who didn’t have a front row seat were patient – no (car horn) honking, no agitating, just waiting for the residents to move from the fountain side of the street to the prime-grub-hunting side of the street.

Second, the bird that looked like wood.

Then yesterday morning on our dog-Buddy constitutional, a little flock of tiny brown birds flew in front of us and landed in the scruffy grassy gravely “lawn” we were walking past. One bird hopped about a bit, especially drawing our attention, and Laura commented that it looked like wood. And indeed, it did look like wood – complete with wood grain. If it were in the woods it would be very, very hard to spot.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that this was the first time I put together that the drab coloring of most female birds is super-duper adaptive. Like most humans (at least that I know), I’ve always been preferentially drawn to the more brightly colored male bird because they’re pretty and have tended to tut-tut and feel sad for the boring female birds. Well, I finally put it together yesterday that the boring female birds need to be boring since they’re sitting on nests, caring for eggs and then for baby birds. Basically, those mama birds better blend in so they aren’t easily spotted and picked off. Anyone who’s a bird person (or has more commonsense than me) would have always known this, but figuring it out was the highlight of my morning so I figured I’d share it with you.

May we all be safe whether crossing the street of carrying for our babies.
May we all be happy to see (and not see) birds dong their things.
May we recognize that there can be strength and wisdom in quiet, unobtrusive ways of being.
May we accept that we need to take care of this place for all of us.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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