Monday, April 24, 2006


Today I observed the first of the Springtime bird parties around here, when the birds really go wild. The party starts when the farmers flood and harrow their paddies, one by one down the mountainside. Today it was the paddy across the road.

Hearing all the avian commotion, I left breakfast and stepped out on the deck to behold a couple dozen hawks, wings wide, swarming the air directly over the paddy, doing their lazy lacework just above the farmer as he harrowed slowly back and forth with his small tractor. Now and then a hawk would swoop down and snatch a grub or a frog from the freshly turned mud that had lain fallow for eight months.

Over in the far trees some egrets were watching from the sidelines, waiting for the farmer to leave. Darkly prominent at the scene were a bunch of crows, who weren't dining at the moment (since they don't wade); their only interest was in harassing any hawks that weren't just sitting on the paddy banks watching with sharp beaks and talons at the ready.

When the farmer finally left, the egrets stepped in and slowly stalked the fresh buffet, selecting breakfast while the hawks kept gliding, swooping and grabbing at the sky-colored water, the crows now and then selecting a particular airborne hawk and closely following him around from above as he scanned the water, then at just the right moment swooping down and mussing up the hawk's hair.

When the hawks had had their fill and glided off into the rest of the air, the crows' fun was done so they left too, leaving the paddy mirror to the slow-motion egrets who, now having the serendipitous banquet all to themselves, took their long-legged graceful time until the entire paddy had been thoroughly enjoyed.

Tomorrow morning comes the next party, one venue lower.


Ronni Bennett said...

My god, reading this is like being there and seeing it myself. Beautiful. And...

I didn't know crows can't wade or, I guess I never thought about it before. What would happen if somehow a crow found himself with water around his ankles?

Robert Brady said...

This is actually a bit deeper than minimal puddle wading; as long as it doesn't get above the crows' yellow boottops... and I've never seen them grunge around in deep wet paddy mud, they're very particular about that tux...