Friday, April 4, 2014

Just a lookin' for a home

Stinky White Tree

The Stinky White Tree is particularly pungent this evening. High cirrus clouds and sunset smear pastel swaths across the western sky, and, Good Lord, what is that smell?

Tell me, again, it’s Friday. Dinner is done (if not entirely cleared away), all the domestic stock (two dogs, four cats) are fed and watered, all outside feeding and watering stations topped off. The trio of dogs across Cement Creek are squabbling noisily amongst themselves, while our two, Lazlo and the Bean, chase one another hell bent for election ‘round and ‘round Ol’ Stinky...the tree...not to be confused with Stinky Cat, our feral house cat.

Move my chair and sweet tea a bit farther from both tree and dogs and nearer the Pot Garden construction site. Scarcely do I get settled in before one of the male cardinals alights on a fence wire near the Pot Garden Snack Bar. Moments later a female joins him, landing on the feeder. The pair are no more than seven, eight feet from me.

While I can’t identify them as distinct individuals yet, they are two among some dozen cardinals who have been scouting out and dining on our patch for the past few weeks. Last evening as Annie and I sat out, I noticed one or more of the males showing dominant territorial behavior, chasing away any other male venturing into the yard or its air space.

Courting season is open.

Staking out his claim

These two tonight were showing signs of having bonded. He would come into the feeder, while she held a higher vantage point some distance away. Then she would come in for a quick bite, and he would dart to a lookout post over her.

This dance continued for several rounds until a damned old dove came swooping through a bit close, startling the cardinal couple. She was off like a shot to the nearest cover, while her guy immediately dropped to a clearing on the ground. He stood resolutely in the open, his brilliant red coat lighting him up like a target while his partner escaped.

He stood his ground for quite some time. Much longer than I would have, at any rate. Then he did something that struck me as odd. While his mate softly cheeped at him from above and across the ditch, Big Red commenced a casual stroll of the grounds. He seemed to show a particular interest in the underneath side of the shrub thicket beside the house.

His inspection lasted a couple or three minutes, I suppose, before she came back. She dropped down a few feet from him; he immediately returned to the pecan tree overhanging the Pot Garden. She came up beside him, and the two flew off together into the dusk.

What was he up to, I wondered, hopping under the greenery and looking this way, then that? He looked for all the world like he was shopping. Was this his version of the Home Depot now that nesting -- and that stinking tree -- fills the air?
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