Twilight rendered the headlights of my car to be totally useless as I headed home. Were they even on? Along the road I saw heavy mist close to the ground in low areas. More ethereal on higher ground a thin, silky veil sinuously wrapped itself around shrubs, trees and farm buildings. The word, ‘gloaming’, an old-fashioned word for this time of day came to my mind. It made me think of things spooky and mysterious.
Shivering, I turned up the heat. My car instantly responded by blowing a steady stream of warm air from its vents. Bright yellow leaves on trees along the road looked like patches of sunshine the day had forgotten as it so quickly departed moments before. The day had been warm, but now the chill and mist was so typical of fall evenings.
The next morning, I decided to exercise on my stationary bicycle. As I got into the rhythm of peddling quickly to nowhere, movement outside the nearby window caught my attention. Dozens of birds were landing on the mountain ash tree standing next to the house. Its berries had turned a beautiful, bright, pumpkin orange. Busily pecking at the fruit, they paid no attention to each other. Fascinated, I watched a large, red-headed flicker land. On other branches were cedar waxwings, robins and sparrows.
In autumns past I’ve seen birds gorge themselves on the berries and then act drunk. Do the overly ripe berries ferment during the warm days and cool nights? It would seem that way. I’ve never see so many birds fly into the windows of my house after they eat the berries. I shook my head and said, “Fall is in its early stages. Hopefully those berries don’t have a high alcohol content yet.”
Birds don’t have to be drunk to fly into a window. The glass reflects the sky and trees. The birds see the bright, open reflection and make the bad choice of trying to fly though what looks like an opening to more trees and sky. Some break their necks and die. Others are knocked goofy and need to rest. Resting in a yard where there are cats, is not a good option for a bird.
One summer several years ago, a beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeak banged into my living room window. Jumping to my feet, I ran outside and found him on the ground. His eyes were shut and his feet were pulled up tight under his belly, but he was alive. I picked him up and held him until he regained his senses. He had no fear of me, even after his eyes opened and he was able to sit upright. Either he was brain-damaged or he knew I was helping him.
A sudden fright can make a bird fly into a glass window pane, too. I recalled one night when I was a child, soon after darkness, something in the farmyard scared our small flock of guinea hens. One of the birds flew and crashed, like a kamikaze pilot, into the farmhouse bathroom window. My sister who was in there, had a grand case of hysterics.
Was the bird drawn toward the light? Who knows. My nephew has a flock of guinea hens. He has said that these birds are so stupid that he suspects an entire flock has only one brain they all must share. It was a ‘no-brain-night’ for the bird that flew into our bathroom window.
After an afternoon of living it up at my backyard ‘Mountain Ash Supper Club and Pub’, it doesn’t surprise me that the intoxicated birds have accidents. They make poor choices. Feeling super relaxed and not recognizing even at the last minute, that they are about to hit a window, I’ve noticed that few of the feathered drunks break their necks. They don’t brace for impact.
Quickly peddling my stationary bike to nowhere, I looked out on the beautiful fall day and thought, “I hope the birds eat all the berries while they’re no more potent than soda pop.”