Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oh, We Forgot To Tell You

My mom is staying with us. She arrived last Tuesday and is staying until May 16th. It's a trial run to see if the three of us (Roger, my mom, and me) can live amicably and well together. So far, so good. Except I haven't been blogging or even reading other blogs. We are also sidetracked by life and good spring weather. We had about 700 pounds of chicken manure delivered and have been slowly spreading it in the freshly dug garden beds in the yard. We have pretty crappity crap crap soil (at least that's how I describe it), red and rocky. We're amending it as best we can. Thanks to all the chickens for their very stinky contributions. We like these chickens very much. We first came to know them through their very delicious eggs, locally laid and sold in the food co-op.
In the meantime, one of the things that has me wondering quite a bit lately is this: how do birds communicate with each other? They do a damned fine job of it. No sooner did we scatter a few kernels of cracked corn down by our little pond, as a sign of our deep appreciation of our wood ducks, when suddenly a pair of mallards arrived to partake in the offerings. First there was a pair of wood ducks, then two pairs, then five. Then, there were mallards. How does that happen?
Then on Monday, another surprise, the geese arrived. How did they find out? Who told them? Four of the Wood Duck pairs have moved on. We didn't mind, we only really wanted one pair to call our very little pond home. But now we wonder if the geese will eat everything and make a giant stinky mess (have you ever seen goose droppings?). Birds must tell each other everything, even when it's not in their own best interest.

Little gossipers... that's what they are.


  1. sounds like things are grand! hi, mom!

    my friend interned for luis baptista one summer, when he was a professor at our college. he later went to the CA academy of sciences, and his career was studying bird vocalizations: your comments about the birds reminded me!

  2. The last time we spent the night at the cabin at Roundrock we saw a pair of Canada geese land on the lake at dusk. Then they took off after a few minutes. Then about twenty minutes later six geese came from the direction the two had flown. I suppose they told their friends of a quiet lake where they could spend the night. And the did. The left the next morning, but for all we know, these geese may visit the lake every night.

  3. A reading assignment: First read "Ravens in Winter" by Bernd Heinrich. That's my number one desert island book. Anyway, he pretty much spends the book trying to sort out why some ravens scream when they find food (thereby alerting other ravens to the feast), and why some don't. When you're done, let it sit with you for awhile. Then follow up with "Dog Days, Raven Nights" by John and Colleen Marzluff. It's about their experiences as Heinrich's post docs, trying to refine and understand better the results of what Heinrich discovered.

    Which doesn't answer your question, except when you've finished with the books, you'll know for certain sure that the summons isn't always what we think it is, nor is it easy to figure out the real answer.

    I've always assumed that birds pay attention to the movements of other birds--both to find food and to learn about dangers. Certainly wild creatures are keenly aware of what's going on around them just as a mater of survival.

  4. I bet it's nice to have your mama there.

    Happy Spring!

    Re: Gossipy birds... Much like humans.

  5. yes, yes, the era of the moms. It's a change, for sure, and I hope you can do it and make it work. It is a most wonderful thing to do for your dear mom. I hope she can get over any feelings of "oh, now I need to rely on my daughter...." My mom did that; felt inadequate and embarrassed at first. I told her she was helping me as much as I was helping her, no embarrassment required.

    birds are a mystery to me....they probably possess far more intelligence that we give them credit for...their intelligence doesn't just rest in their tiny brains, but their DNA and cells. They sure have thrived for a long long time. You're right, it's the gossiping. What else have they got to occupy their time?

  6. A warm welcome to Mom.

  7. Please send your mom some Tennessee hugs from me. Bless you all. I miss my parents all the time.

  8. You might find the geese are like relatives - they arrive, and never leave. It's one thing if you've invited them...

    I hope you can find a way to accommodate your mom. I'm thinking you'll have an experience similar to ours. My MIL was amiable and almost always cheery, and I always liked her. It's definitely an impingement on a typical empty-nester lifestyle, but yours, in your environment, is a lot different than our urban playground.

    I was not my MIL's "caregiver", Betsy was. What I observed was an incremental increase in the demand on Betsy's time and attention, until one day you look back and wonder how you could leave the house for a whole day, when now it's not possible to go a couple of hours.

    I'm not sorry I did it, but it's definitely a choice you make about how you're going to spend 5 or 10 years.

  9. @Tara - exactly what we used to say about non-working moms, no? ;-)

  10. Pablo,
    When you live there, you will know.

    Neat that Mom is there.
    Our soil is pure sand so I feel your pain.

  11. I am sure they were bragging about what a nice place they have!!

    Enjoy Mamma and I hope that works out for you.

  12. So happy to hear that you have your Mom with you.

    I've been thinking so much about how birds communicate. In the last couple of weeks I've been addicted to watching the "eagle cam" from Decorah, Iowa. There are 3 eaglets in the nest, and a pair of the most devoted and skilled parents caring for them. They obviously communicate so much to each other all day and night, with minimal vocalization going on. It is awesome. If you haven't seen it, try tuning in at:
    Sending love to you and Rog.xox

  13. There is a theory that pre-historic human language in south India was based on bird calls and is found in anomalous passages of Vedic hymns. Chickens eta all do communicate. Our chickens were partial to old Protestant hymns and when ever I weeded around their pen/yard and sang 'Amazing Grace' they would listen and fall asleep.

  14. Wow! Lots of changes this spring. Hope that works out for you and roger and your mother. From what you've written in the past about your mother, my guess is that it will be good to share your lives with her and for her to share her life with you.

    About the Wood Ducks. We see them here in early spring and then they disappear but reappear in May with ducklings! Maybe your Wood Ducks are in the nesting boxes. With the three visible Wood Duck nesting boxes here, there will likely be many many ducklings in May this year!

  15. i have not seen their droppings to notice but was chased by geese and pinched and pecked enough to cause bruising, both as a child and again about 10 years ago! i assume they were protecting babies near the lake where i was walking. i had no idea what caused the commotion in either case.

    so glad to hear your mom is there and you guys are examining compatibility. i miss my mother every day in some capacity.

  16. Dharma Bums,

    My name is Barbara O’Brien and I am a political blogger. Just had a question about your blog and couldn’t find an email—please get back to me as soon as you can (barbaraobrien(at)


  17. Hope things work out! Funny play on have crappy soil so you are spreading chicken crap.

    I don't know how the birds communicate, but every single Pine Siskin in our county has learned that our house is a good place to dine. They are EVERYWHERE!

  18. Seems they do it better than we do... communicate, that is. At least with a lot less animosity.

  19. Greetings to Dharma Mom......hope it works out.

  20. We were going to get chickens for their soil additions. Also, they needed to be highly decorative. "But that variety doesn't lay many eggs," we were told. Ah, but we're chicken-shit people.

  21. That's really nice that your mom, you, and Roger are finding out if you all can reside together. I'm betting that you can. I wonder, too, how birds tell each other about food sources. That is one interesting question!

  22. Glad to hear that your mom is being in folded into the fold.
    How do the birds let each other know what's happening?
    Google strawbale gardening...Worked like a charm when I lived up in the foothills of the Sierra's.