Monday, July 20, 2009


Yesterday while waiting for the morning train I saw a perky wagtail feeding off the dead bugs on the windshield of a car down in the train parking lot; he followed the meal of bugs across the windshield, then hopped onto the side mirror and down to the side window, where he found more bugs, then turned around and saw another male wagtail right in his face; both birds made threatening head gestures, then the first wagtail leaped flapping to the attack atop the mirror and-- the stranger was gone.

The victor stood there atop the mirror in full-feathered righteousness, strutting in a swellchested wagtail way, looking around in confidence as if to say "Sure scared that guy, never saw anybird disappear so fast." Contented and proud, after checking once more to make sure that the stranger was gone, Master Wagtail returned in confidence to his side widow to continue feeding, turned around, and damned if that very same stranger wasn't right there again, as though he hadn't just been chased clear out of sight by the master himself!!

Once more to the attack, a little more squawkily ferocious this time-- and once more, just as the master pounced, the intruder instantly disappeared. The puzzled victor stood atop the mirror searching everywhere to make absolutely sure the interloper was definitely gone this time, then back to the window, turn around, SQUAWK!!! stranger again, attack, disappear, over and over and over into a black-and-white feather-flying frenzy. The invader could only be driven away for a moment to some incomprehensible place, before he came instantly back!

'How DOES he do that,' the wagtail seemed to ponder in a deeply wagtailian way each time he stood in dubious victory atop the mirror, looking everywhere only to find that he was absolutely for certain and without a doubt the only wagtail within at least a kilometer; then back to the bugs and there was the stranger right in his face again, no rest for the would-be feeder with the very big and ungraspable dilemma, who went on thus ignoring his meal in preference to territorial battle: up, down, up, down in front of the mirror feisty as all get out until my train came.

This morning when I checked the parking lot, I saw that the mirror had successfully defended its territory.

From July 2002 archives

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