Thursday, July 8, 2010

Funeral for a Grackle


For the longest time, I thought we were alone in the universe, as sentient creatures go. I watched Star Trek, and other sci-fi searching the hypothetic skies for intelligent life.

It turns out that, under keen observation, especially in natural settings, the list of ‘self aware’ animals just keeps on growing. They are among us.

Some of them flock to our bird feeders.

Today I heard a thump on my window, followed by a raucous clamour of birds. I had the curtains shut to keep the heat out, and had to go outside to investigate. When a bird hits the window (and it does, thankfully rarely, happen) I look in see if there is anything I can or should do about it. In winter, I’ve brought in injured birds, to see them revive hours later. With the temperature at 34C, warming is not necessary, but still, I did check.

Indeed, there was a grackle, face down on the lawn, but surrounded by its shrieking flock. They were gathered about, on my deck and the trees. Of course my presence disturbed them, and fled the veranda, but only as far as the nearest tree, where settled and continued their shrieking lament, eyes on the injured bird.

As warmth was there in plenty, and the flock was their to keep guard, I went inside, still listening, hearing, all that avian distress. When it finally subsided, I went out again, to discover what I already knew. This bird had died, watched over by its own kind.

Image: 5x7 planographic & relief gelatin print, using found natural objects and linocuts; this one features ravens, but it seemed oddly apt for this post.


Jennifer Rose said...

:( poor bird :( but this is a very lovely post about how the flock stayed near by

i always felt guilty when a bird would hit the window, ended putting falcon silhouettes on the windows to try to stop it from happening. it worked most of the time

Chrissy said...

It is horrible when that happens but an incredible story nonetheless...
I was unfamiliar with the word "grackle". they look like our Crows!
I like the art piece very much :D

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Jennifer, mostly they're okay. I pasted 'snowflakes' on the window, & confess they are dirty, and the curtains shut. I think they know the window is there, but just like us, sometimes you just forget and bang into a wall.
But, yes, of course I feel guilty too. The flock behaviour was both heartbreaking (I could hear them indoors) and fascinating.
Chrissy, thanks. That print was one of those 'happy accidents' that will never happen again.
I think many 'non-birders' probably lump grackles together with crows; they are a different species but do display complex social interactions. Do you have a link to your 'crows'? We have crows too, but they tend to stay away from feeders and yards.

Michelle (artscapes) said...

I did not know about grackles... Must look them up! Lovely piece and touching story. When you really watch the creatures around us have such 'culture'...

kaslkaos said...

Hi Michelle, thank you! and good to hear from you. The other species on this planet are fascinating once you get to know them.


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