Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Voice of the Turtle Dove Is Heard In Our Land

                The Voice of the Turtle Dove Is Heard In Our Land
            Even Solomon knew we need to hear a familiar voice from time to time. And what could be more familiar than the mournful Coo-OOO-oo-oo-oo of the bird that in our country is called the mourning dove. In Mexico she is la paloma.

            But that doesn’t mean I invited her to stake out a homestead in the hanging planter outside my back door. The planter itself is colorful, a traditional flat-backed, painted hanging wall planter. I suppose Senora Paloma looked around and decided the many trees in the courtyard looked like a low rent district in comparison to the open views around the planter. Evidently security is not an issue. Or maybe she liked the plant itself, a draping viney piece of greenery, the local name which translates as “little banana” for the pods it produces. Maybe she feels like she is at a resort.

            When I noticed my patio outside my door cluttered with twigs, I thought it strange but didn’t realize a major construction project had begun. I grabbed my broom and swept the sticks aside. When I reached up to water my hanging plant, with my keen analytical mind, I “twigged” to the building materials. The top of my planter was littered with sticks, each about six inches in length, looking like a jumble of pretzels.

            Considering myself a responsible though reluctant land-lady, I quit watering my plant. Over the next several days the pile of sticks grew. I watched Senor bring the twigs and Senora weave them together into a disreputable flimsy excuse for a nest. Home, sweet uncomfortable home. Once she deemed it a finished nest, the gal planted two eggs.  

            A couple weeks ago I met Theresa and Tom, long time residents in Mexico. They live two blocks up the street. In moments we discovered a shared interest in birds. I mentioned I wanted to find a bird book for Mexico, preferably printed in English. They are in the States today, hunting my book.

            Here in Mazatlan are the same ubiquitous sparrows, cheeky little creatures. And with the sidewalk café on the corner, the fearless sparrows are well-fed. A pair of swallows lives in the wall of the building across the street. In the winter, I see a few scruffy crows. But the grackles, shifty-eyed disreputable crow cousins, similar in aspect but more uptight in appearance and lacking the crow sense of humor, make their presence heard with a screech reminiscent of fingernails pulling across an old-fashioned blackboard. Grackles are everywhere.

            Beyond those few familiar fluttering feathered friends, is a whole world of avian creatures, all colorful, all trilling song. I want to identify them, learn who they are.  Can’t wait to get my bird book so I know what to call this pretty little reddish orange with the sweet voice. And the larger one, all yellow and green.

            Meanwhile, each morning my pair of doves wakes me, fills my courtyard with gentle tune. I frequently check the maternity ward where one or the other parent sits patiently on the sticks. Soon the eggs will hatch. Two babies with impossibly wide mouths will wait for mom and dad to fill their gullets. I’ll provide seeds and grains.

Out of my kind heart? Absolutely not. I’m watchful, yes. I worry my plant will die for lack of water before the babies learn to fly. As soon as those little beasties leave the nest, I’ll dismantle every twig. I’ll water my poor plant and nurture it back to health. Next time I find a pile of sticks out my back doorway, I’ll put up a notice: No occupancy. Condemned. Unsafe. Poison Plant. Not In My Back Yard. Mean Dogs. No Trespassing. Armed with Slingshot. No parking. Go Away.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

April 23, 2015

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