Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Big Green Birds of Spring

All too often I get wrapped up in my own little world of private jets and international espionage and I forget about the small dramas playing out all around me.

That's easy to do when you're, say, trying to open your secondary chute after leaping from a flaming 747 twenty thousand feet over the French Alps (that was Tuesday afternoon, I believe), but it's true.

Consider, for instance, the birds. They're everywhere, now that summer is near. Chirping, flapping, pecking at the ground, relaying messages to former KGB cells -- in short, going about the business of being birds.

Most of what I know about birds involves pounds of body weight and hours spent basting in an oven at 375 degrees. I can usually distinguish between a bluebird and a mockingbird, or a hawk and an incoming Exocet missile, but that's about the extent of my birding skills.

So when I noticed the chirping of baby birds coming from an old birdhouse I stuck in the crook of a Bradford pear tree last year, I naturally assumed they were bluebirds.

Now, I'll go ahead and say what most men fear to whisper, which is that all infants of all species are ugly. Sorry, but they are. Shriveled and wrinkled and usually an odd shade of blue, babies just aren't pretty, and these are no exception.

Still, I didn't see a mother bird, or a father bird, or even a social worker bird from PCS.

So I grabbed my camera and, after quickly dispatching a pair of Ninja assassins hiding in what they failed to realize was a bed of poison ivy, I waited for mama bird to appear.

The following pics are the fruits of my patient labor.

The birdhouse. One bedroom, one bath, priced to move at 120K.
You can see the little birds poking their heads out. Below is a close-up:

We demand bugs!

Here's another shot:

Look, maybe we're cute from a distance.
I waited for a long time, before I saw Mama bird, perched in the next tree over, giving me the eye. If anyone knows what species she is, let me know! I suppose she is a bit blue, in a greyish-green sort of way, but frankly she doesn't look much like a bluebird. Of course I'm colorblind so I'm not the best judge of these things.

I managed to grab a single image of Mama actually feeding the babies, and then I decided I was making them all nervous, so I left. But here it is!

Notice how even in the image above she's looking at me and saying, in Bird, "You want I should peck your eyes out? YOU WANT DAT MONKEY-BOY?"

This next pic is just a green leaf. But it's the green you get only in spring, and only for a few weeks of spring. Soon the rains will stop and things will turn desert-dry and blast-furnace hot and this shade of green will go brittle, touched with brown, and dry.

I like this next image because it captured green, blue, and white, all in the same frame. It was shot looking up beneath a young oak tree.

Next up are many shades of green, taken over a blackberry patch:

Finally, and this is just for anyone who occasionally collects weird images to use as samples or bits for webpages, this shot of weathered cedar:

Birds and random leaves aside, I've been working hard to push the new Markhat novel to a close. And I'm getting there, via the most complicated ending I've ever written. I do like the way what started as Markhat's most mundane case (finding a little dog named Cornbread) turns into a mess that, as Stitches warns, could result in the unraveling of the entire universe.

But some days are like that, aren't they?  

I meant to have Mug's contribution to Sidekick Sunday ready for today, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, I'll leave you with a link to an MP3 sound file of me reading aloud 'The Knocking Man,' a scary short set in a cemetery where the dead are laid, but seldom rest....


  1. I loved the photos of the baby birds! They were amazing!

  2. Hey, thanks! I had my ancient 5 megapixel Finepix, no tripod, and I had it on full zoom trying to hold my breath while pressing the shutter button. Was lucky I got any pics at all. Mama Bird was wary of me, even though I was a good 30 feet from her tree! Next year I'll secure the birdhouse with screws and move it up a couple of feet. Glad you liked the pics!

  3. Great photos!!! But I don't think they were hungry. They were each just trying to get their version of the story out first.

  4. Ha! Great shots. Try to get mom sidesways so I can see her wing markings. I can't quite tell from the one front on. So, climb that tree and get more shots!

    Your camera gets some good color shots. Nice work.

    And yes, we are waiting impatiently for the next book.