Ethnic Cleansing and Lawn Inspection

I was given a new cubicle at the office, where I’m spending too much time these days. It’s on the ground floor and has a large window looking out at a patch of shrubs and lawn planted with Japanese maples and a young magnolia. I see a lot of birds from this window and note them down in a digest which I email to myself at the end of each week. The most frequent visitors are the crows, a mockingbird, two Oregon juncos, and a black phoebe. Less frequent are the hummingbirds, scrub jays, western bluebirds, bushtits, pewees and what I think is a Bewick’s wren.

It must be a Bewick’s wren because of its prominent white eyebrows. It’s a small bird. Named for the engraver Thomas Bewick, the male has a lovely song which it learns not from its father but from listening to neighboring males. Humans and wrens resemble each other in this. Certain things about manhood we’re just not willing to learn from our own fathers. The Bewick’s wren is common here in the western U.S. but has almost disappeared from the east coast where the house wren has waged a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing, destroying the eggs of the Bewick’s wren in order to expand its own territory.

Crows have an aversion to businessmen and will avoid office parks during standard working hours. Four (always four) of them will hunt through the grass here before 9am. After 5pm a larger group of between two and three dozen arrives. They come in like a comic troop of lawn inspectors and spread out evenly to conduct their review. Slow steps are taken, heads are tilted to judge the trim of the grass, margins are scrutinized, and loose bits of sod are pulled at with apparent dissatisfaction. Finally one of the senior inspectors caws out a score (passing or failing, I don’t’ know), and they’re off to the next patch of green.

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