Sunday

Cow-Bird in Beautiful Bethel



We worked in the garden this morning, watering and weeding. Nestled down in the old over-grown orchard, the garden is big enough to provide vegetables for the table for several months. And a few bags for the freezer. I especially like the watering. A small stream runs close enough that carrying a filled pitcher from it to the plants is hardly any work at all. Exactly the best kind of garden.

All accompanied by bird-song. A thrush family has been coming back to the orchard every spring for several years. They are reputed to be among the best of bird vocalist, and this family seems determined to maintain that reputation. The thrush I could easily describe as operatic in that the song is long and trill-filled with more variation than repetition. I never know what I'm going to hear but I know whatever it is, it will be exquisite.

I also heard what could have been a cowbird. I did not see the bird so I can't be sure but the notes had a fluid water-like sound. The sound of water moving over smooth stones. A sound I always think to follow to a stream, not up a tree.

The cowbird has more than a bit of a reputation. They mate for the pleasure of it and go on their way. They do not build a nest. Lady Cowbird waits until a slightly smaller bird has left her nest for an outing (in this case probably the thrush) and then proceeds to lay her egg in with the other bird's eggs. She then flies away leaving her egg to be tended by the surrogate mother. After the bird has fledged I can only suppose they instinctively re-join the cowbird flock where, once again, the party is on.

I've always loved this bird. First for the outrageously beautiful song. And second because she breaks all would-be bird rules. She doesn't mate for life. Her maternal instinct is entirely satisfied by finding a surrogate who not only hatches the egg but raises the chick as well. And she is beautiful; large and sleek with delicate black markings on brown feathers.

The rules here on this lovely blue and green planet aren't nearly as hard and fast as we would have been lead to believe. It's a fine thing to be reminded of it by a bird who lives entirely for her own pleasure. Oh yes.