The Season of Industry

May 3, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Contractors, Nature, Springtime

It’s May. The lilacs are barely in bud. The birds are all building their nests. The noisy female robins, are squawking and rejecting various bits that their husbands bring back for the nest. String is okay, but that knarly branch, squawk tweet tweet, lots of ruffled feathers, “are you kidding me?” And then he places the string gently along one side and she flutters around bellowing her disapproval of the placement. He patiently files back and moves the string to the other side. It is exactly the dance we do around here every single time I have a bunch of strong young men around, “hey would you guys minding moving something…oh thanks, a little higher, oh oh almost, maybe just to the right a bit”, etc, etc. Me and the birds.

The mating rituals have begun too. The robins are especially excited right now. The ladies are all ruffling their tailfeathers, and the males are flying around poking one another with their beaks fighting over sweet Sal. The chipmunks are running through the meadow, chattering and playing out their own versions of high school prom. The females watch the males running and leaping, and seem to choose between the most athletic jumpers, or who knows, maybe it’s the guy with the cute little stripe on his nose. The young misses sit high up in the trees and watch the silly antics of the boys. Every once in a while one skitters down and the boys stand very still. She runs up to one or another and with a quick sniff they run off together and back up into the trees. The boys go back to what they were doing waiting for the next gal to deign to choose. All of nature is opening up, leafing out, and getting a little bit randy. The explosion belongs all to May.

The leaves aren’t big enough to provide real cover to the nests yet, and so the humans get a quick peek into the lives of our closest neighbors. We can see the bluejays at home. The build big wide nests with low walls. These guys are the gang leaders of the woods. They fight with the squirrels over the bird feeders, the best branch, whatever; whenever. The bluejays and the squirrels are like the Crips and the Bloods of the forest. But at home these guys are teddy bears. They nestle up close to their mates and sing them the sweetest little songs. None of that screeching that they do around each other. In the nest it is all coo, tweet, tweet coo. They are handsome devils and at least at home they are lovers.

The woodpeckers are all going crazy. They build high huge nests. We have pileated woodpeckers up here. They are quite large and their pecking echoes through the woods. You can watch them build,
but these folks want their privacy. Their nests are high enough to completely cover the two of them whilst they get started on their families. These are little woodsy McMansions, sometimes even with an extra level off to the side and above the nest proper. And they are smart too. They don’t bother with dragging home bits of leaf and string. They go for the mulch in the garden and strip the bark right of the trees. They seem to make actual walls like little masons only with mulch and bark. If I were a bird I would hire a woodpecker to build my house.

I would not hire Dean who has been fussing with my rotten porch steps now for three weeks. The humans want to build things in the spring too. Only up here there are too many of us who want things and too few of us who know how to make them. My house does not have any handy people. And it is almost two centuries old, so things always need shoring up, fiddling with, or just plain replacing. We must hire the handy ones so that we can stay here.. In this case we have a guy who owes us and wants to barter it off.
S l o w l y.
Dean apparently comes at noon and is usually gone by five. That is on the days when he comes. I long to sit on my porch when I am home on the weekends and watch nature’s May Parade, only Dean is out there hammering and sawing, and throwing cigarette butts in my yard. I have to take a chair to the woods and watch from there.
He would surely make a poor woodpecker. Hmmm, I wonder how much those guys charge anyway….


  • Law Student Hot Mama

    By “mating rituals” do you mean girls dressed like hoochies and guys wearing mandals? (Man sandals?)

    ‘Cause I’m seeing a lot of both of those things.

  • Molls

    Does this mean I can shorten my skirts to find a mate? I mean since it is seasonally appropriate and all…

  • katiedid

    I am imagining a cartoon woodpecker contractor coming up to the door with the tool belt and the hat. Of course, once he actually became a contractor, he would hem and haw like they all do about how long the job would take. He would start off strong and then go missing for a few days right in themiddle of the project. You could find him over in the next town starting a project there that he wouldn’t finish on time either. I think the job ruins them all….

  • painted maypole

    we have a woodpecker who likes to peck at our METAL chimeny. which is rather loud inside our home.

    crazy bird.

  • library lady

    Until we acquired the cats,(who scorn regular useful employment with a skill and fervor that would make Dean look like Super Carpenter)we had an army of birds dropping in to amuse us and eat tons of fruit and seeds. The woodpeckers usually only tried to kill our big elm tree that was busy killing itself, and an enterprising blue jay tried to pull a steak off the barbecue grill.

  • the mother of this lot

    Is there any room on that porch for me?

  • ILX

    ILX said: I have always loved the word deign. It seems so regal and noble somehow, and old fashioned like something my grandmother, Miss Belle, might have used…it has the connotation of one of superior bearing, breeding maybe; one who deigns to be with the hoi poloi…as a courtesy and favor of course to them. Why else? Noblesse Oblige?
    In any event a wonderful blog again…ILX…

  • ilx

    ILX says furthermore: With regard to the whole May Day ritual/festival thing: he very heartily agrees that it ought to be re-established in all it’s pagan glory, May Pole and all with all decorum set aside for the day as in times of old…of course the celebrations would be by invitation only as we would only deign to be with certain people, We would elect a May Queen who would have her choice of mates and then she would open the festivities…there are interesting accounts of this if one cares to Google it…happy happy joy joy….ILX…

  • Kellan

    I loved hearing about all of your birds and even about Dean. Sorry he is making so much noise and messing up your yard. Will be nice when he gets some things done.

    Nice to see you E – take care – Kellan

  • Bia

    I sometimes get very impatient with people who have no concept of time (like Dean) . . . but on the other hand sometimes I am a little envious. What a gift it must be to not let the craziness of the world rush you.

    Then again, nothing would ever get done!

    Oh, well.

  • Anonymous

    This was fantastic.Are you a nature writer?I mean do you think of yourself that way?
    I love these stories. I just found you and I have a bunch of old ones to look foreward to reading.Yay

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