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Ascending. Descent.

Incorrect on the number of peafowl. There are seven. Two males, five females. Our novice observation tells us they are of different ages. The older male is most certainly in charge.

Peacock-in-Chief

Peacock-in-Chief

We’ve seen their plummage in its full glory, but for reasons we can’t quite identify. After they’ve eaten, on the back porch, the younger male, particularly, will sometimes open up and have a shake about the place. His tail dress is small, compared to what i’ve seen. We wonder if that doesn’t have to do with the fact that these birds are wild. Long trains of tail feather aren’t practical when you are scurrying away through the tall brush. Again, that’s just a notion. They may be of a breed that doesn’t get large. Or they may just be young.

Last night, at dusk, Stephen was sitting on the stoop of the chicken house when he witnessed the most incredible routine. Up to that point, we had not been sure where the birds go at night. Despite my having read that peafowl go high to sleep, we suspected that they roosted in the small patch of woods and tall grass at the back of our garden where they sometimes go during the day. We had gone out a few times at night with a flash light searching the roof and the treetops for them, but never caught site of a single feather.

But last evening – at bed time – Stephen watched as each of the seven birds moved from the back porch and flew to the apex of the roof above the garage. A tall, steep purch, their large clumsy talons gripped the vertex, two males first in line followed by the five hens. The first male, the head of the clan, shuffled to the a-framed edge of the roof at the back of the house. He set his sights on a branch he had deemed suitable. Upon receiving the go for take off, he spread his large wings and lept for the branch, flapping furiously a few times before landing on his destination, which bounched vigorously up and down under the weight of his new resident.

Family

Family

Meanwhile, the line on the roof had move up a spot, each queue member inching up one position and the second in line reading for his turn. They did not all seem as confident as the first, some of them needing a little extra time to muster courage to make the leap. The entire clan showed great patience, however, not squawking or honking to articulate a decided ‘Get on with it!’

Each bird was headed for the same branch that the first bird had deemed suitable and, by the end, like crows on a telephone wire, the seven of them were hudled tightly together in a row, ready for sleep. And there they remained all night. Stephen took me out when i arrived home later and showed me the snoozing brood. This morning, it was the first thing i looked for, the silhouette of the cozy family against the sunrise-infused sky.

It was when i was coming up from the chicken coop this morning, about to get in my car and go to work, that i witness the reverse routine of the birds i hope never go away. The head male flew down from the branch, after what looked like a morning regimen of preening and neck stretches. He moved around the porch and checked things out, made sure i’d left food and fresh water for them, just as they have come to expect from us.

To indicate all clear, he did not honk. Perhaps he had some more inspecting to do. The rest of the brood, meanwhile, began to descend, one by one, from the tall branch they’d called bed, to the roof. Landing with a thud, they each moved themselves back up to the apex which had served as their runway the night before. However, this time, instead of facing forward and up, they were all turned to the side and looking down, toward the porch, waiting, i assume, for the All Clear, so that they could make their way to their suburban oasis and enjoy breakfast.

Fewer Birds, More Birds

At Stephen’s behest, i must begin this post by exonerating Moriarity, our cat. He did not slaughter two of our silkie chickens as i suspected he may have in the last post. We know this conclusively because . . . another silkie was killed and its blood sucked by what we can describe only as a vampiric opossum. Stephen discovered the murderer in the coop, in the corner, having its way with our last rooster. (Sigh.) I was out of town; i  mourned from afar.

We have plans to re populate our chicken family, but have not made any moves in that direction thus far.

Pet Peacocks

Pet Peacocks

In the meantime, we have been beset by a flock of peacocks. We know not from where they came, but they have come to stay, it seems. They spend their days on our front and back porch, making an unholy mess of poop and feathers. They are beautiful, which makes me reluctant to catagorize them as a pest.

I should correct myself, here. They are a group of two males and eight females so are correctly referred to as peafowl. Each day, the chief male shows up, checks things out, then flies to the roof and proceeds to honk like a 1984 Ford pick-up truck. About ten minutes later, the family arrives. On the couch cushions. On the picnic table. On the porch railings.

First Heartbreak

Today is Monday. On Friday, t wo of our beautiful silkies were killed. We know not the culprit, but we suspect our fatuous cat Moriarity. One male was left dead in the pen. One female was gone completely.

Hawks or racoons would have mauled, scraped or eaten the birds. The male whose body remained looked only to have had its neck broken. Feathers peppered the pen. The two remaining birds seemed frightened, more skittish than normal.

We heightened our fence specifically to avoid what we felt was the main threat to our birds, dogs. A dog could not have gotten into the pen. Nor would his work have been so clean.

Having raised the loveable innocents from days-old-hood, i had grown terribly attached to them. I feel as though i somehow failed them in this. I had done what i thought was enough to keep them safe, but i was wrong.

We hadn’t considered our cat a threat because we thought the birds were too big to be of interest to him.

And granted, our cat it may not have been.

But the attacks were not in the dead of night. They were in the day or just before dark.

I will get more chickens. I will try harder next time.

Save yourself

Park we camped at on the weekend, a river runs through it. All literature you read about the park warns you first and foremost that said river is prone to flash flooding. “Save your children; save yourselves.”

No rain dampened our weekend, so have to rush to higher ground we did not. But the vistas were breathtaking, i dare say.

The camping area was crowded. The masses had come for the river, come to spend their weekend walking in slow motion over rough, painful rock bottom. In addition, the river was low. They were sitting in mud between stumbles to shore. 

 
We hiked high into the park. 

At one point, we came across an old burial site. I don’t know that i could call it a cemetery, exactly. Prior to becoming public 35 years ago, the land had been in private hands. Rocks and branches delineated burial plots; makeshift markers made from larger pieces of stone. We walked amongst them, beneath the unusually cool canopy. As we stood quietly, i said a prayer.

When we returned home, it seemed as though the chickens had doubled in size. We’ve moved them to a former rabbit cage, that they might have more room as well as grow used to the outdoors.

They’ve all four of them developed spiked shelves atop their heads that make them each look disappointingly like roosters. Hopefully, these flattops are but interim stages to glorious female plummage. Indeed.

Camping

We camp. Our state parks are numerous and well maintained. We are lucky.

I mention it because we are camping this holiday weekend. The current, exorbitant price of travel is one we are willing to incur when these parks are our destination.

The notion of nature as a green tree against a blue sky may be simple, but is, for me, not simplistic. There is nothing more beautiful. The further away i am from concrete or artificial light, the happier i am. I am too sentimental in my appreciation of natural beauty. But when i am some place that fills my heart with joyBrazos Bend State Park, you are more than welcome to call me anything you like.

In that place, i won’t mind.

Took a recent trip to a marshy ecology with more heron-type bird species than i had ever seen. And alligators. Bona fide gators. Actually, i believe the wetlands in this park were not technically marshes because vegetation didn’t cover the entire surface area. They called them lakes. But they looked marshy to me.

We camp.

Sometimes our accomodations are more rustic than a campsite  with water and electric. Though too late in our area now to do any more tent camping until Fall, earlier this year, we loaded the kayaks with as much gear as we could manage and paddled across a lake to stay over night in a national forest near to our home. We found the most perfect spot, on a point that caught the cross breezes, keeping us cool and bugs away.

Kayak camping We were woken in the middle of that beautiful night by the squawking agony of a heron, the sort that we would, the following weekend, see aplenty in the marsh, mutilated by what we would come to assume was an alligator. We found it stunned and floating nearby in the morning, its legs almost completely bitten from its body.  Such is nature, i suppose. The nature i love.

We ended the bird’s misery.

Sometimes . . . often, my role is so small, there is nothing i can do.

Good news

This is wonderful news. Coupled with what happened in the Everglades last week, it sure is something.

 

“A huge patchwork of privately owned forest in northwest Montana will be permanently protected from development under an agreement announced Monday by two private conservation groups, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land.” (NY Times)

 

I may not, in this venue, articulate fully my feelings about the evils of unhinged development in this country, but i will share my pockets of joy when its efforts are thwarted by people who are brave enough to do the right thing.

Growing

Adolescent chick

I’m growing a bit frustrated with the chickens as their current living situation is no longer suitable and their next living quarters will not be occupy-able until next week.

Currently, the four chicks, loud, half-feathered, skittish, are housed in a cage in my front living room. I do not spend much time in this area, so they are not in the way, per se. There is a door to the room to keep the dog out. They are placed under a window to receive natural light (we removed their heating lamp a couple weeks ago) and any breezes that might roll through.

I mentioned before, though, that their messes are increasing in proportion to their size and it is time they were moved outside. We have converted an old rabbit cage that will serve as the chicks’ home while they continue to grow. Ultimately, they will move into their rather fancy coop which Stephen built, kitted out with cozy nesting boxes, ornate perches and fancy ladders to get from level to level.

They scratch and peck like crazy, destroying their daily lining of newspaper and taking every bit of their daily allotment of hay and somehow managing to move it to the floor outside the cage. But it’s their poop, quite frankly, that’s the big bother. Rather, its constant flow. I know it is good for the compost. I know.

But . . . it’s time for them to go outside.

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