Birds at the Gate

The B Monster is standing up at the kitchen window, paws pressed against it, she is looking out and chirping. I peek out to see two magpies sitting on our outside window sill. The cat is beside herself with excitement. So close. The magpies seem to be conversing and the cat’s chirps seem to play in counterpoint with the birds’ chatter.

One of the magpies nods his head and the cat steps away from the window. She saunters to her food bowl and sits down to a midday snack. The birds fly away. Strange, I think, that all seemed oddly coordinated.

I’ve always loved birds. But seriously, what’s not to love about animals that fly around, build houses with their faces, and sing for you as you walk by? Nothing. They’re also neatly patterned and pretty smart. Some birds have been proven to employ tools to construct homes or to open things like nuts. I could not and cannot accurately wrap my head around the complexity of these beings’ social order, their signaling system, or their abilities to fly in patterns with a hundred other birds. To varying extents, explanations for these things still elude scientists. But I can observe and enjoy.   

Though I am in no way an ornithologist, I have enjoyed observation of our flying buddies. This mostly occurred in my last flat, where I would watch with fascination the interactions within the magpie community from my porch. This interaction included what were almost certainly battles, as groups and couples of magpies would chase around other groups aggressively chirping and shouting at each other. I would stand on the porch holding the B Monster as still as possible as she stared with impossible intensity. When we moved in March, there was the sadness of leaving behind a neighborhood of animals and sounds and trees and things we were used to.  

In the summer at my parents’ house, I walked into my room (the library) and noted with alarm that a robin was running around on the floor. Obviously it had managed to get inside. It was clearly distressed and I tried to soothe it with a placating voice as I took the screen out of the window and urged him to fly away. He did and stood on the roof outside for a few minutes, I’d like to think, thanking me for the help. I saluted him, a thing to which he responded by pooping and then flying away. It was a special moment.

Today, when the magpies come back, this time to our back window, the B Monster is again waiting for them. She is tensed, staring, but not chirping. She’s listening. Now I know that if the glass window was not in between her and these birds that she would eat them like her own little bucket of KFC. But as it stands she’s just observing. I wonder if she’s comparing them to the old neighborhood’s magpies.

I, for one, am getting a little uncomfortable. These guys are ending up at my windows a bit more than they used to and I don’t know exactly what that means. Who knows where people can stow a camera these days? Maybe these birds are acting as someone’s animalistic drones. Or worse, maybe they’re not. Maybe instead of me observing them, the opposite is occurring. Magpies are intelligent animals. They can feel emotion, they remember people, and they are supposed to be little thieves.

Oh my Dog. It dawns on me: they’re watching me. And the cat is their inside guy. They are all talking. Is she selling me down the river? What have they promised her? I can offer more, so much more. I pull the curtains closed and sit facing the window. Come on, I think, you’re being paranoid.

In the kitchen I pour a glass of milk and make a sandwich. It’s raining, not a bird in the sky. The clouds are black at 3 pm, and I feel a little comfort. On the road, there’s movement. After checking for traffic (both ways) three ducks cross the street towards my building. There are no ponds around here. There are no rivers. Dammit. The ducks are in on it too.

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