Once again Molly and Charlie find themselves in Alexandria, Louisiana. You may remember last year’s Nature Report from here concerning the mating of trees. They are a little early for the pollen this year, but just in time for the mating frenzy of the birds. Mourning doves, cardinals, sparrows, mockingbirds, you name it, they are calling to each other, staking out nesting sites, building nests, and, in the case of one mourning dove, already sitting on eggs. Molly and Charlie are staying with Scott Howett, the sales manager for the winery’s Louisiana distributor, at his townhouse condo in Alexandria. He has a hanging planter outside his front door that a mourning dove has nested in and is brooding on already. Everyone sticks his/her head out the front door periodically to check on her and, depending on the wind, she’s either looking right back at them or they’re looking at tail feathers. This dove totally believes in the power of holding still as camouflage – she hasn’t moved in six days. In addition, it appears that male mourning doves do not provide food or protection for nesting females. Bummer.
Molly has been out walking every morning, and the cacophony of bird calls is amazing. Cardinals, in particular, are extremely territorial. When the males are alone on the top of trees, their calls are melodious and charming. But when another male alights in the same tree, the calls become fierce, outraged, testosterone-fueled screeches, and aerial battles ensue. The attacks and evasive maneuvers are frightening to watch. Often the frantic combatants barely miss the ground. It’s a miracle any of these cardinals survives to sire another generation.
The sparrows, however, take a more communistic, multi-unit approach to housing. One house Molly passes has tall, cylindrical cedar trees lining its driveway. These trees serve as sparrow high-rise apartment buildings and are mobbed with birds flying into and out of the branches at roughly one-foot intervals. The noise is incredible – each incoming bird being warned off in no uncertain terms by its neighbors, and frantically welcomed home at the same time.
About a block into the beginning of each morning’s walk is a baby-sized bayou on the side of the road. Molly has seen turtles, minnows and frogs in the water and in the reeds and grass lining its banks. This mini-bayou has also provided the sole moment of avian sanity she has witnessed in all this hard-wired breeding mania. One morning, a lone egret was standing motionless and (blessedly) silent in the water, fishing. Even the air around the bird seemed to be hushed and frozen in time. There may have been pandemonium at home, but there was peace and quiet at the office.
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