If there was no other sign that Autumn is here, besides the increase in fall showers, it would be the increasing consumption of the goodies in my bird feeders. Before I go any further, I feel sad to report that the level of nectar in my hummingbird feeders has not changed for several weeks. Other than that, the daily consumption of mixed feed has now reached the size of a 29 ounce can and sometimes more.
It’s consumed from a feeder hanging underneath a decaying hazelnut tree along my back fence, but a far more interesting one is on a roofed shelf outside a living room window.
That’s the arena for countless displays of “King of the Mountain” and “first class bluffing.” As I write this, I’ve witnessed three days of marital discord between a pair of red wing blackbirds who seem to be taking a break in their southward journey. Even though they’re both larger than the majority of birds that feed there, the space is big enough for two — but neither one will submit to such marital harmony.
They most often arrive together but the male — let’s call him George — is always the first to say “Dibs” and chases the female, Martha, away. George feeds for usually not longer than 10 or 15 seconds before Martha returns, postures in a dominant manner and feeds — rather rapidly — after George, wisely, takes off. Soon he returns and once again attains dominance. This usually goes on for no longer than a minute or two before they both fly away only to return several times each day.
It’s a “birds eye” example of the power of dominance, practiced and demonstrated throughout history. Many of you are too young to have observed, first hand, the power that Hitler had over a mass audience. It seemed to come so naturally to him whenever he faced an enthusiastic gathering. It was fascinating to watch at first, but didn’t take long to become frightening.
Mussolini tried to emulate him but never fully succeeded. There was always the feeling that we were watching well-calculated posturing — an imitation, rather than a display of any real strength or power.
Can we not notice the appearance of similar behavior in our own political candidates? Our current president, throughout his own campaign, certainly appears (to Democrats at least) to be doing a second-rate attempt at the same thing but can’t pull it off quite as well as Adolph and Benito could.
Some time ago — it may have been before the 2016 election — I pointed out that when he feels he’s addressing an audience consisting of intelligence of no more than a second grade child, his lips begin to protrude and form themselves into a small circle. It’s a dead giveaway to his often demonstrated elevated sense of superiority.
Enough of that. Let’s go back to birds. One of the charms of both the spring and fall migrations is hearing the different sounds made by various species of our feathered friends. I feel disappointed at my inability to identify a bird by the sound of its call. I once bought a CD that was supposed to help me but most of the examples belonged to birds that were more comfortable in other parts of the nation. Books don’t help, of course. I can only look back, with a combination of regret and awe, to a time when I walked and rested next to Russ Mohney on one of the trails in the Seminary Hill Natural Area, hearing him identify every cheep and chirp we heard that afternoon. It made me long for the sort of growing up that he describes in such wonderful words in my favorite book, “A Simple Song”, still available in this newspaper’s front office.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.