Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winged Things

Last weekend I was passing through our backyard doing some long-delayed yard clean up when one of those sudden "bird invasions" happened. Chickadees, titmice, white breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and goldfinches started arriving at our feeders, darting here and there, back and forth, in a flurry of winged activity. I stood still, hoping I wouldn't scare any of them away, even though I was barely three feet from one of our biggest feeders. The fluttering and ruffling of wings of these rather small birds was loud in my ears, like a soft rapid drumming. It was exciting simply to stand and watch while the brief frenzy lasted. 

Yesterday I was among much bigger birds, and not nearly as close, on our local beach just after sunset when the Canada geese come "home" for the night in the shallow, protected salt water cove. They spend their winter days at the golf course. Really! I know it sounds silly, but I honestly think that's where they go, heading off in the mornings for a day of recreation. Actually, I'm sure some of them go to farm lands and some to the golf course, then back to the seaside for their overnights.

Some days, about twenty or so minutes after sunset, their raucous arrival is audible inside our house even with windows and doors closed. To be outside when the geese come in is even better. To be on the beach and hear the whistle of their wing beats (if they're not honking too much) and then the chhhhh sound as they land in the water is the best of all. Sometimes I try running along side them just for the heck of it; they're fast. 

I've noticed that sometimes a skein of geese will start to unravel as the geese near their destination, the formation no longer important. Sometimes the individuals start toppling and tipping as they come down. It looks as if maybe they're just having fun, veering to one side then another; or maybe it's a way of slowing down. And then they settle in, with greetings exchanged between the newcomers and those already floating somewhere in the dark.