December 10, 2011 by Joseph C. Neal
Common Grackles and European Starlings appear to be the main components of large blackbird roosts developing in my Fayetteville neighborhood. This is an annual event, as soon as we begin to have nighttime freezing. The birds roost together for various reasons, but a key one is that they are warmer in mass than individually.
I like the sounds these flocks as they chatter, perched in trees up and down the street. This week I followed them with my sound recorder. My method was to find the flock, park my car on the street, roll down the window, and collect sound files. On one street, a woman was rolling in her trash can, then letting out her dogs. I was parked and noticed that amidst all the just-got-home busy-ness, she had time for repeated glances at my car. I heard her click across the street, walk right up to my window, and say without greeting or introduction, “May I ask what you are doing here?” When I explained she immediately left without any additional comments.
I was thinking about this because yesterday, over near Siloam Springs, I was parked on a public road watching a small pond with a female-male Hooded Merganser pair, plus two pairs of Mallards. The light was good, so I decided to try photographs. Mallards are pretty fantastic-looking creatures, and I’d say Hooded Mergansers double-fantastic, if there is such a thing.
I think to myself, out here in this otherwise pretty dreary-looking field of brown grass and cows, dramatically attired, completely wild ducks just wait to inspire. This is going on in my brain as I point my spotting scope out the window and try digital pictures.
I am far off in this private reverie, when up alongside me, and blocking my view of the pond, drives a pick-up, loud with its diesel engine, big tires, a yard off the ground. The guy inside is looking down at me and says, without greeting, “I don’t like people taking pictures of my cows.” I, sitting in my little old car, and without thinking, respond, “I’m only taking pictures of your ducks. Thank you.” Without saying anything, the guy just drives off. I go back to his wild ducks. I’d liked to have shared pictures with him, sound files with her.
I’m not a threatening-looking person, yet in neither case did either person say, “Howdy neighbor. Pardon me, but I’m curious about what you are doing?” I assume our minds are being fed via mass media not curiosity natural to our species, but rather an evil pabulum of suspicion, anger and poison. Where else would it come from? My hopeful side believes if we keep getting out there, we will bring forth curiosity natural to our species.