About Birds

Whether you are science-minded and hold that the earth is billions of years old or a Bible believer of the creation account, one common fact rings true. Birds were created before men. They occupy every biome on the face of the earth. They are a keystone species, meaning that without birds the survival of man would be a tenuous proposition. Birds are a fundamental part of the circle of life, kind of like air, food and water. Birds, on the other hand, could easily survive without man. They have done so in the past.

Aside from the survival component that birds hold for men, they also give us company, beauty, song and the wonder of flight. Would we be flying today without the prompting of our aerial friends? I doubt it.

Have you ever wondered about the songs that birds sing . . . whether they are actually communicating? After spending way too much time outdoors, instead of doing my homework or practicing on the piano, among other omissions, I am convinced that they do have language. As a deer hunter, I pay careful attention to what the blue jays are doing and saying, and I also watch the crows. When deer are approaching through the woods, these birds will raise a particular kind of ruckus. If you are attentive, you can hear it in their calls – “deer on the move”! Song birds, like cardinals and chickadees, also have a distinct alarm call if a fox or a cat are approaching. The other birds pick up the warning, understand, and react.    And here’s something we all experience . . . birds express happiness in their songs. They greet the sunrise with an extraordinary celebration of life.

I am a life-long observer of crows. They love to play – on the ground and in the air. And they are very intelligent rascals. Once, while camping in the Boundary Waters of Northern-most Minnesota, the crows invaded our campsite. Every time we left camp to go out fishing, they would come in and steal from our backpacks and take things off the picnic table, including some shiny fishing lures. We tried to trap them by placing walleye filets on the table top, with mono-filament snares. They simply ate the filets, avoiding the snares. Then we tried a box trap, with more fish filets. The trap was sprung – but no captive crow in sight. The crows actually waited for our return from fishing, perching in the white pines by camp, and they gave us a raucous chorus of the crow version of the raspberries.

Another story from my youth: I was working at the lumber yard one summer, and delivered a load of roofing supplies for a shed to one of the local farms.   I parked next to the outbuilding that looked like a candidate for roofing. I didn’t see any of the farm folks, so I yelled out “Hello”. The response came loud and clear, “Hello”. I then said, “Where would you like the roofing unloaded?” Again the response was “Hello”. This exchange was repeated a couple of times, and I assumed the farmer was hard of hearing, so I went looking for him. As I rounded a shed, I saw a huge crow sitting on a perch, about four feet off the ground. I walked up to him and he greeted me with a perfect, “Hello!”

My best bird story: I used to live on a farm by Lake Christina in Ottertail County. Many Canadian Geese frequented the stubble wheat field between my farm house and the lake. One day a couple hundred geese were gleaning wheat on the far side of the field. I tried an experiment. I pulled out my harmonica, sat on the backyard patio and began to play.   At first lots of geese stopped feeding, and stuck their heads straight up, facing me. After a while, they went back to feeding, but about a dozen peeled off from the group and began to walk straight toward me. They covered the 200 yards separating us, laying down about 40 feet from me. I kept playing and some of them began to “gabble”, which is a gooses’ version of a cat purring with satisfaction. They just plain enjoyed the music, especially “She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes”. After a most enjoyable hour they went back to gleaning wheat, walking out of sight down the stubble rows, disappearing into the land of memories.

If we are observant, what might the world teach us?

Energy tips: Use the right sized lids when cooking with a pan; use the microwave whenever possible versus your oven; use the air dry option on your dishwasher and wash in cold water and with full loads; unplug your second fridge and save from $100 to $200 per year; set your fridge at 36 degrees and your freezer at 6 degrees; buy Energy Star appliances, they cost much less to run.

Tri-CAP February 2018

By: Stephen Bjorklund