For the Birds

Once upon a time, I set out to learn bird names, but when it dawned on me that these are the names humans gave them, not what the birds call themselves, and that the names don’t tell the inner truth of birdness, I lost interest.

Still, yesterday when I noticed a distinctive bird fighting for space with a blue jay at my neighbor’s birdfeeder, I wanted to know what I was seeing. The bird was black with red wings, so that’s what I googled — red-winged black bird. I had to laugh — out loud, in fact — at the name of the bird. It’s called the red-winged black bird. That sure told me a lot about the bird! I don’t know what I was expecting — an exotic name of some sort, something other than the obvious, though I shouldn’t have since birds are often described by color: blue jay, robin red breast, goldfinch.

Apparently, the red-winged black bird is one of the more common birds in this country, though I only remember seeing it a couple of times, but that’s not saying much. They could be where I’m not. For example, when I was growing up in Denver, robins were a frequent sight, but when I moved to the western slope of Colorado, I’d be lucky to see one every two or three years.

(Speaking of Denver — I just read that it’s tenth on the list of most rat-infested cities. Rats? In Denver? There weren’t rats when I was there, at least none that I’d ever heard of.)

I’d ordered a couple of greengage plum trees to be delivered at the appropriate time for planting this fall, and I just got notification that they will be coming in the next couple of days. It should be fun digging holes in the snow! Well, no. Not fun. But if it warms up enough by the time the trees get here, the extra moisture might make it easier to dig.

Although greengage plums where I lived on the western slope were the best plums I’ve ever eaten, I realize that the soil here might give them a different taste. (A friend in California gave me some when I was there, and they were nothing like the ones I grew.) And I realize I will mostly be planting them for the birds. Assuming the trees survive and assuming they flower and assuming the blossoms don’t freeze in the unpredictable Colorado spring and assuming the blossoms produce plums and assuming the fruit tastes the way I hope it will taste, the chances of my finding any that the birds have left alone is quite slim.

Still, birds need to eat. And who knows, the fruit might attract another exotic bird like the red-winged black bird.


“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

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