THESE BIRDS ARE FOR THE BIRDS!

By Norris Chambers

             Clifton and I could be accused of many things, but we were never accused of being birdwatchers. We knew about several bird types that tweeted and flapped around our part of the country but we generally didnít go out of our way to watch them. There was one time when my dad offered a twenty-five cent bounty on crows delivered during water melon season. Crows were bad about descending on a water melon patch and pecking holes in the melons. I often wondered why they just pecked those big old holes and never appeared to eat much of the melon. Maybe they just wanted to find the best ones but never did. Anyway, we took our rifles and went crow hunting.

            Crows travel in groups and cover an area five or six miles in diameter. They tend to settle in some big tree in an area and post sentries in inconspicuous places all around. This makes it almost impossible to get close enough to shoot one. Any time two nice hunters get within an impossible shooting distance one of the watchers begins his kaw-kaw and the whole group vacates and heads toward the other side of their domain. We didnít collect any bounty money.

            We knew about sparrows, wrens, mocking birds, hawks, buzzards and owls. The bird that really stood out above the rest was the scissortail. These birds had long tails that were opened at times like a pair of scissors. Little kids were often told that they might snip off their noses! Because they were so belligerent it wasnít too hard to believe.

            When a pair of scissortails took over an area for their nest and hunting grounds they defended it angrily against any intruder. I have seen them attack just about every type of bird including the vicious hawks. They were quick to start irritating any animal that came near the nest. In their attacks they were careful to keep enough distance between them and their enemy to remain safe. They seemed to know where the blind side of the invader was and they directed their attack there. Usually animals would move on and get out of their way. Birds were inclined to run instead of fight.

            The same animosity was directed to nice boys like Clifton and me. We might have been tempted to take a few shots at them with our slingshots but otherwise we more or less ignored them. They didnít ignore us. They would swoop down at us, one on either side, squeaking and

squalling and fluttering their wings. I donít remember actually getting pecked but they convinced us that they would be willing to go that far. We usually did what the other animals and birds did. We moved on.

            We learned to tolerate the sassy birds and didnít waste too much time worrying about them. They didnít bother us unless we approached their territory. Our dogs didnít care for them and usually ran away when the grouchy birds attacked. Cats were a little more defensive and would jumps and slap at them for awhile. In the final rounds the cats moved on and the birds left them alone.

            Many years later part of my job was to monitor a tall tower and a recording shack at its base. The tower held several weather recording transmitters as well as radiation monitoring sensors. Cables from these instruments were directed down the tower, into the shack and to a teletype machine that recorded the reading day and night. I was expected to keep the instruments working and keep rolls of paper on the machines to record the vital information.

            One of the hazards of this job was the appearance of a pair of scissortails that claimed the area for their own and built a nest about two-thirds of the way to the top of the fifty foot tower. When I had trouble with the little windmill type transmitters that measured wind speed they didnít want me climbing the ladder toward their nest. They became very angry and darted angrily toward me flapping their wings. I couldnít understand the harsh language they were using but Iím sure it wasnít very nice. They actually raked the back of my neck with their fluttering wings. I expected to lose an ear at any time.

            The birds and I exchanged bad language for several weeks. Eventually they disappeared. I guess they found a better hunting ground. I missed the noisy couple. Even though they never learned to like me, I sort of liked them. They brought a little bit of fun to an otherwise routine job Maybe you ought to find a couple of scissortails to occupy your time and have fun!