(At) Loose Ends

A.V.Walters

So, the vacation cold from hell lingers on. I’ve turned the corner though, and whilst I’m not yet up to gardening, I am trying to putter about, being productive. I’m back to working and sneezing and coughing—those being my current forms of aerobic activity. This whole thing has landed me in a cranky mood—which I’m taking out on my number one enemy, those damn mourning doves.

This place is bird central. If I look out the window (the same view you see above in the blog header) I’m likely, in that moment, to see at least five kinds of birds. (No, I don’t include chickens in that mix—you can’t see them from here, anyway.) As often as not, at least one of the birds I usually see will be a mourning dove—those cloying, cooing agents of rural decay. Elmer loves them. I have never been a mourning dove fancier. Having spent thirty years in the city, I know a pigeon when I see one—and these, for all intents and purposes, are pigeons. If you didn’t recognize them visually, that telltale coo ought to be enough to correctly place these country cousins in their correct category—rats with wings.

And it’s not just the result of this damned cold, I am a curmudgeon when it comes to mourning doves. My friends are appalled. Here I am, Ms. Farm Fresh and Natural and yet, I hold a grim grudge against this hapless species.  They see it as out of character. And that’s the issue—they “see” it. I am a largely auditory person. Some sounds really get to me. There’s a particular tonal thing with the coo of a mourning dove that gets under my skin. It’s one of those fingernails-on-a-chalkboard things, the call of mourning doves actually grates on me. Sometimes I play music to escape that damning pitch.

And they never shut up. Before I installed the wood stove they used to sit on the top of my chimney and coo down at me, the whole house reverberating with their incessant coo. Even now, when they can no longer use the house as their sound chamber, all day I hear the constant coo of the mourning doves. There are at least four breeding pairs within a stone’s throw of my house. They are so damn chatty. Other people don’t hear it, until I point it out. And then they raise their eyebrows at my anti-dove vitriol. They think I’m nuts.

Really, I don’t mind the hoots and screeches of the owls, the high-pitched squeak of our occasional bat. The chickadees are just fine with me. I’m quite impressed with the goings on of the house finches and those little yellow guys I haven’t yet identified. I love to watch the constant swooping of the swallows (though I won’t allow them to build their mud nests under our eaves.) And you know how I feel about egrets. So I’m not just a general, bird hater. It’s just those damn doves. Perhaps they bother me just a little more when I’m under the weather.

On a lighter note… We have a farm rule about nesting birds. You can dissuade them all you like, but if they get to the point of a nest with eggs, they get to stay, unmolested, until the chicks are grown. Do you begin to understand now just how much of a softie Elmer is?

I’d hoped that our fledgling raptor would grow up to be a mourning dove devourer. Unfortunately, he’d completely flown the coop by the time we returned from our recent trip, so he will not live out my dove-eradication fantasy. We never even figured out who he was. He kept grooming and preening and pulling out all his baby-fuzz feathers. He was literally changing by the day. I’ve read stories and scientific explanations of the phenomena of “going grey overnight” because of some traumatic experience. It appears that it does occur, not because the hair changes color, but because the stress of the event causes hair loss—and that shedding occurs first in the older hair shafts—so the more-recent grey hair survives the trauma. Such is the case of the fledgling raptor. The baby-fuzz feathers conceal the bird-to-be, who, in his fledging phase, preens his way to a whole new self. Kind of like teenagers, if you know what I mean. Anyway…

The doves do drive me crazy and, like I said, it’s not about some dark, avian animosity. I guess I’ll just turn up the music until I’m feeling better.

Oh, while I’m addressing loose ends, and if you’re wondering, the peach tree’s forced-defoliation has been a complete success! While still a bit sparse, it has leafed out anew with only about 5% of the leaves still affected with peach curl. Like the garden, I’ll get to those last curled leaves when this damned cold abates.

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