187. Cardinal Rules
There is a tree planted in my backyard that has had a difficult time getting established. Last year, when it was first planted, we had a long hot and dry summer and now this summer has been "blast furnace redux". The poor little magnolia tree that was intended to be a beautiful ornamental shade tree has struggled. To protect it from the weed whacker, a wire cage was placed around it and mulch has been mounded to catch and conserve the weekly deep irrigation that is keeping it alive.
One afternoon, when the sprinkler was turned on to water both the magnolia and the well-established silver leaf maple nearby, it became the community bird bath for a multitude of birds. They were perching on the wire rungs of the cage and fluffing their feathers, jumping from rung to rung as they flew through the droplets of the sprinkler. I have never witnessed such collective bird joy in my whole life!
This avian celebration continued for at least thirty minutes with lots of excited chirping to accompany it. The commotion attracted more and more birds of various sizes and colors. There were wrens and chickadees, finches and sparrows, but the overwhelming majority of attendees at this impromptu water party were cardinals. Both the brightly red colored male cardinals and the less showy red-brown females were having a high time at the water sprinkler hoe-down!
The cardinal is a territorial song bird. The male sings in a loud clear whistle from the top of a tree or another high location to defend his territory and will chase off other males entering his territory. They even mistake their own image on various reflective surfaces as an invading male and will fight the reflection relentlessly. But on this day, territory was ignored and there were no boundaries in the sprinkler's spray. Everyone played nice.
All the birds were singing, whistling songs amongst each other in what I am sure was the expression of pure bird ecstasy at finding a local shower in the midst of the searing heat. The cardinals were singing "purdy, purdy, whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit". It became a wonderful opportunity to enjoy watching some lovely birds. I couldn't help but anthropomorphize them and imagine they were like most children playing in the sprinkler on a hot summer day!
There's a large special interest group for Birding that is part of the Sun City Texas Nature Club. They get together a couple of times a month for bird walks at 7:30 in the morning. They also get together for field trips to enjoy birds in their native habitat. For anyone who has an interest, they also loan bird reference materials such as books, pamphlets and CDs. Anyone can take an interest in birds and learn more about them. Just turn on your sprinkler and watch the show.
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