Thursday, May 24, 2012

The birds are back

Last year we had robins build a nest in the clematis vine on the front porch. For awhile I thought they might reuse the nest this year, but they appear to have decided to make a fresh start. They're building a nest over a drainpipe on the BACK porch this year.

I saw the first move on Tuesday afternoon - a robin so heavily laden with long strands of dry grass he couldn't stay airborne. He missed his target, landed on the deck rail, then made a second attempt and got to the correct spot. By evening, there were a few strands of grass and twigs balanced up there.

The next day, both birds began a day of furious construction. By the afternoon, the supporting structure was in place:



I noticed that both the male and female shared this job of bringing the heavy materials, but once that was over, there was a division of labour. Then the female started bringing beakfuls of mud to plaster the nest, and the male took over guard duty. They were both very alert any time I peeked through the window to watch them, but the male would actually hop around nearby when I was outside. I don't know if he seriously planned to attack me if I got too close, but he was very vigilant.

A few weeks ago, the lady who writes the bird column in the Sunday Citizen wrote about robins, and said that when they're in this nesting phase, the males are very aggressive and territorial. And when they catch a glimpse of their own reflection in a window, they get very bossy and try to fight it off! This male robin was doing that all day yesterday: he'd flutter up and down the glass trying to drive off the "rival" robin encroaching on his territory. Or else he'd plant himself right on the sill and hop back and forth, staring down his enemy. It didn't matter what I did, he could still see himself in the glass and would not give up. The bird lady said that this is a phase they go through, and once the eggs come and the work of finding food starts up, they forget about chasing phantom intruders.

Today the nest looks nearly finished. I snuck out there last night with scissors and trimmed off the longest dangling pieces of grass, because they were hanging down so low, I was afraid James might notice and try yanking on it.



I'll try to grab a picture of the nest with one of the birds actually IN it, but I don't want to spook them.


UPDATE: This isn't my video, but it shows what she was doing today, treading down the interior to make it nice and smooth:


What's funny is that the MALE robin now figures "There. It's done. Now, let's have a little fun!" and started chasing the female while she was still bringing beakfuls of grass to put the finishing touches on! Typical. "Come on, that's good enough!" "No, it's not perfect. Leave me alone!"

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Welcome to Mr. Micawber's world

I was feeling especially old and curmudgeonly on Tuesday, when over the radio I heard that Quebec students were "protesting austerity". This is the current issue outraging the loudmouthed idlers - university tuition fees are going up a few dollars. But the malcontents joined up with the rest of the morons celebrating Communist New Year (May 1), and despite local variations, the song remained the same worldwide: Europeans protest austerity at May Day rallies; Unions protest austerity at May Day rallies; Europeans Rally to Protest Austerity, etc. etc. You get the picture; do a Google search for "protest austerity" - pages of results. Why, Wikipedia even has an entry entitled "Anti-austerity protests".

Honestly, I don't even recognize this world anymore. When I was young, thrift, which is what is being attacked here, was recognized as a virtue, and not a particularly heroic one. It was considered so basic, and, in a wealthy society like ours, so easy to attain, that it hardly needed mentioning. You confined your spending to the money you actually had, and this was a very minor sort of self-control that people were expected to exercise as a duty to society, like not showing up drunk at church, or not going to the office in your pyjamas.

"Protesting austerity" therefore strikes the same tone to me as "Protesting sobriety". I honestly can't even figure out how people with working minds were able to talk themselves into believing that this is some sort of cause worth loudly shouting about in public. To me it's incomprehensible, and yet the self-righteousness of these protestors indicates that they've never even entertained a moment of doubt about it.

Rather than "protesting austerity", I think these people's true cause is "Protesting Reality". Their method of thinking is like that of Mr. Micawber, minus his endearing humility and good-heartedness.

Or more likely, they've adopted the lifestyle of those P.G. Wodehouse toffs who made it a point never to pay their tradesmen's bills, because it proved that they were true gentlemen who couldn't be bothered fingering actual cash - that was the concern of the lower orders. But as the old Murphy Brown syndrome showed, the degenerate behaviour that works for a tiny decorative fringe of upper-class layabouts is disastrous when transferred downmarket into the ranks of the mere middle and lower middle class. Now we have a big segment of the young middle class who think that their membership to the Drones Club is assured, and are resolutely determined that a life of leisured dilettantism is their birthright, which some vulgarians with a chequebook are maliciously refusing to deliver.