What's Tony Thinking

Bird Behavior


We’re in the Wallowa Mountains in Northeast Oregon, the ancestral homeland. It is our first, post-winter, visit of the year. We call it “opening up.” Water and power get turned on. We check for winter damage and rodent incursions. We clean gutters, mow the lawn and chop wood. Generally thaw the place out after a long, cold winter.

Linda describes the cabin’s condition on arrival as “forlorn.” And, why not, seven months since anyone has shown any interest? And a damn cold seven months to boot. I’d be forlorn too. Probably worse than “forlorn.”

But with a little love and elbow grease, the now nearly 100 year old cabin, seems to sit up, wag its tail, and look happy!

But this year there’s been a wee mystery. A robin has been pecking at the east-facing kitchen windows. The other evening we had settled in to watch a movie when the pecking was so insistent that we thought someone was knocking at our door. It turned out it was the robin hammering away at the window as if it wished to become a woodpecker.

Over a romantic dinner in celebration of our 55th wedding anniversary at “Slack” in Joseph, we speculated on reasons for this unusual behavior. “They’re pissed off about climate change?” I suggested. More practically, Linda said, “there must be a nest nearby.”

Neither of us had our phones with us so we were thrown back “on our own devices,” (i.e. “device-less”). It occurred to me to wonder if the robin might be seeing his own reflection in the window, and was warding off what he thought to be an interloper on his turf. Bingo! At least that’s what a later search on Google turned up. Robins, male robins, are “extremely territorial.”

The article concluded by saying that, “this behavior usually ends after about two weeks.” Well, thank goodness. I’m not interested in replacing cracked windowpanes battered by a robin asserting his domain!

Otherwise, things in the Wallowas are as usual, meaning nothing changes, but actually things do change. Nothing changes as in the mountains and lake stay put. Thanks be to God. But we humans are busy, busy, busy. A property, 2.5 acres, that is below us and has been our buffer to the two-lane state highway, has been sold for “development.” Possibly “townhouses.” Mercy.

So robins aren’t the only territorial ones. I stand at the west-facing windows of our cabin and look wistfully down the hill at the old trees and meadow below us that may become townhouses. Not sure what my version of the robin’s pecking behavior might be. Grumpy looks? Soulful laments?

Well, I guess the fact of the matter is that there are a whole lot more people in the U. S. of A. in 2024 than in 1926 (when this cabin was built). And the people keep showing up. Still, “townhouses!”

Memorial Day is at hand. Down in nearby Joseph, Oregon, the lilacs are in full bloom ready to be gathered in heaps and bunches, and laid at graves for what was once known as “Decoration Day.” Up here, where we are, the buds on the lilacs are like bb’s, tight little balls, whose bloom is two to four weeks off. We might yet see a little snow. It’s been known to happen on Memorial Day.

If and when the townhouses are built below us, it will be the end of half of my grandmother’s lilacs. But the other half, after all these years, with a little attention and fertilizer, are doing great!

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