So much happens in the world.
My own lawn -- a flat, sandy square with sparse, seasonal grass -- is rich with drama. Lizards defending their turf, ant-lions excavating their circular traps, spiders trapeze-ing around, the odd turtle cruising through.
This week, when the sun was out, I happened upon an enormous grub crawling out of the ground. Pale, translucent, squirmy, better than two inches long. I wish I could un-see it. Why was it on the move in the middle of winter? Scientific curiosity muscled aside by revulsion, I flicked it onto the shed roof so that a mockingbird might make a meal of it.
I admit the birds' drama interests me most: the chirpy purple martins who return each year (so early! I spotted the first scouts in January), the pair of owls who invaded and occupied a squirrel's nest last year, the mob of raucous crows bedeviling the owls.
Crossing the sandy lawn, I spot a mess of feathers by the mailbox: a single flight-feather, big handful of curled coverts, and drifting snowflakes of pale down. The scene is bloodless, but it must have been a massacre. A Cooper's hawk probably, taking a mourning dove at speed.
Not to brood on the "nature red in tooth and claw"* character of wildlife, but there's this:
What manner of creature stuffed this narrow gap between two channel-markers with the dismembered wings of seagulls? A rogue osprey? An angry human? What other bird-of-prey hunts the open bay?
Was this -- like the fried chicken bones left in a pile along the sea-wall -- the remains of an alfresco picnic? Wings, after all, not being the most nutritious bit of bird?
Did someone or somebird perform the dismemberment for vengeance? A bird-feud, a bird-vendetta? Were the wings left as warning? Surely the owners of these wings did not just keel over and land there, did they?
I've never seen it a second time, but the mystery haunts me.
(*"Nature red in tooth and claw" is a quotation from Tennyson's "In Memorium," a long meditation on doubt and the afterlife.)
2/4/2014 12:08:49 pm
My teeth are on edge. Tooth and claw indeed. Deadeye writing, Amy
2/5/2014 12:38:51 am
Oh go on!
2/9/2014 09:52:59 am
What a macabre vision! I am more than a little creeped out by that... Thank you (I think?) for sharing!
2/10/2014 01:14:45 am
You're welcome, Kate!
2/10/2014 09:43:14 am
I work with quite a few seabird researchers... I will ask around and see if I can get some answers.
2/10/2014 02:34:22 pm
So.... I got some answers, but I'm not sure you're going to want to know. It's not a seabird behavior, I'll leave it at that unless you want more.
2/10/2014 03:26:30 pm
Erg. Going from gruesome speculation to awful truth? I do want to know, but perhaps offline -- will you drop me an e-mail?
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