A female bluebird takes flight above a wire fence. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Springtime means migratory birds have returned to the North and are preparing to nest and raise their chicks. Mark Seth Lender is Living on Earth's Explorer-In-Residence, and he shares his observations of Canada's mountain bluebirds in the spring.
CURWOOD: Springtime in the North means migratory birds have returned and are getting ready for the serious business of nesting and raising chicks. Our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, shares his observations of bluebirds this time of year in British Columbia.
Wire to Wire
Mountain Bluebird, British Columbia
LENDER: Mountain Bluebird, wings beating time, follows the wire down the line. Her flight, a path that plies just above the barbs with which (in our pedestrian desire) we strive to set apart. Cedar from silage. Sweet corn from forest mosses. Nature from what we nurture. Untamed darkling woods and rills – fenced off – from cows and fields in crop or fallow.
But when it comes to Mountain Bluebird we are temperance on the vine. We consign, what Bluebird seeks to find: Nest boxes, arranged every twenty fenceposts, like pulses, like Hollows of the Human Heart.
Bluebird has come to depend upon us this built wooden refuge to provide, roof over head. Vindictive as we are against what is unkempt, our dread, of wild things, of wilderness, our fell hand bringing forest to its knees with two-man saw and chain saw. Yet Bluebird earns Reprieve. In a field returned to Nature insects abound, the greening hills alive. There Bluebirds, thrive.
Bluebird lands at the cross-corner of the section divide -
To the gate post -
To the bleached twig with its single empty pinecone -
Then to the twisted pair of tines, shining, sharp against weather that is sure to arrive. There, though pressed, by shortness of season Bluebird hesitates. She holds, in her beak, beetles with mirrored wings in hues of fluorescein and violet blue -
She waits. Then leaps!
Then comes to rest on a lichen-crusted tree all gray and yellow-green, unintended compliment to her pale cyan and cerulean.
Significant Other stands nearby, her guard, and decoy (Her muted watercolors a non-compete against his feathered lightning). Like a bolt from the blue he tackles a sprig of mullein just off to the side, it sways as he lands, his tail spread wide. Balancing, he stretches out his wings. And, while the world eyes the bright of him –
Quick to the nest she tips in.
Only two babies inside but they make quick work of the parcel that she brings. No murmurings of motherhood (work is her every reason and her rhyme), she launches into thin blue air, to answer that collect call of the wild, in mime, quick-time:
Bluebird toes the line!
CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender. And there are pictures at our website loe.org
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