bunt sign

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Imagine you're the only sparrow in a yard full of quail. Now you know how I feel whenever I'm out in public. It's pretty much the way I felt all through high school, too.

The sparrow just outside my back door today probably didn't know what she was getting into when she flew out of the walnut tree and landed on the ground that had been taken over by the quail just a few moments before. They had just walked over the hill into the area off my porch, and they were intently involved in scratching up the dry grass.

The sparrow looked as if she were about to join them, but she couldn't find a spot where straw wasn't being kicked in her face. I swear I heard a tiny cough as she gave up and lit out for the safety of a walnut branch. The quail don't stick around for very long at a time anyway, and she had the rest of the day to make it back down.

Besides, it's a big yard. I'm not sure why she insisted on trying to feed in the small area being overseen by Papa Quail, from the top of the compost mound, and protected by Mama Quail, scratching the ground and keeping an eye on the kids. Maybe she just wanted to be part of the crowd, but found herself shunned as an outsider.

The birdbath, on the other side of the house, was also the scene of a bit of drama today. This morning it was occupied by a chubby brown towhee who didn't want to share. A pair of sparrows were watching from the branches of the small oak tree. Every so often one of them would land on the rim of the birdbath and watch.

That didn't bother the bigger bird, but as soon as a sparrow tried to get in the water, the towhee would fluff itself up and chase the other bird away. They didn't give up, though. At times they were content to soak up a little of the overspray, but they didn't get their baths until the towhee was finished and gone.

Later on, it was a sparrow who was the big bird. This time a flock of tiny bushtits watched and waited and chattered. They didn't try to invade the sparrow's space, though. They knew the order of things, and they weren't about to make their move until the sparrow was gone.

As soon as the sparrow took off, the bushtits flitted down to the birdbath, one at a time, splashing away. There were ten of them, and it got kind of crowded even though they're very small birds. But they didn't fight over territory. They jabbered at each other and made room for each new bird that flew down from above.

Then unexpectedly Papa Quail sauntered out from beneath a nearby shrub. I hadn't seen him, and it was pretty obvious the bushtits didn't know he was there, because they took off en masse, in a twittering flurry of fluttering feathers. After they were gone, the quail disappeared back under the bush. Apparently he was just annoyed by the noise, in a you-kids-get-out-of-my-yard kind of way.

29 September 2003

Trees west of my house, on a foggy fall day.

As I watched all this happening in my garden, I was waiting for a good time to walk out and get the mail. I didn't want to disturb the birds needlessly, so I went out the back door and walked through the dandelion-ridden side yard to the driveway. I wondered why there weren't any birds on that side of the house until the cream-colored cat looked up at me from under the wisteria and winked one blue eye. That was the answer to that mystery.

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At Pacific Bell Park this afternoon, the Giants played their first postseason game since they lost game 7 of last year's World Series. The Marlins played their first since they won game 7 of the 1997 World Series. There was a razor's edge of difference between the two teams today, and his name was Barry Bonds. The Marlins didn't want him to beat them, so they walked him three times. Both Giants runs in their 2-0 win came after walks to Bonds. The one time they pitched to him, they got him out. Jason Schmidt continued to pitch better than anyone else in baseball. He should win the National League Cy Young Award, and Bonds should be MVP.

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