Bird Watcher's Digest Magazine
The little bird rocketed into the air, singing on its way up, singing as it peaked, and still singing on its way back to the ground. Awestruck by its beauty and its indifference to us, we watched the little bird so intently that three hours passed in the blink of an eye.
Out there amidst the prickly pear and the yucca, the blue grama and the western wheatgrass, where shorthorned lizards hunt ants by day and western rattlesnakes hunt pocket mice by night, I had long ago found pleasure in the company of this exquisite little bird. While my eyes had watched it for the first time, my mind had tracked it through a wilderness of time just to find an overlay of natural history and human history that would tell its story.
It became a story worth sharing.
A little bird, with a sparkling voice to match its dazzling plumage to match a twinkle of glorious summer sun in its eyes, rocketed into the air, singing on its way up, singing as it peaked, and still singing on its way back to the ground.
The cheetah, crouched in scant grass, ignored the bird as it would a fly. Its golden eyes unblinking, the cheetah stared at a band of grazing pronghorns. The pronghorns missed both bird and cat, as did hundreds of nearby bison and a dozen small camels lounging in the scant shade of a lone cottonwood.
For the little bird, the absence of trees was a requirement, not a problem. A species of grasslands rather than of treelands, it guarded territory and distracted would-be predatorswhile its mate built their nest in a depression she excavated in the soil beneath an overhanging tuft of wheatgrass and snakeweed. Her first nest of the season she had placed in a hollow next to a pile of bison dung. Her current nest now held five eggs that, as always, she alone incubated. This nest was just a long leap from the tense cheetah.
Remember the story of sledding crows that went viral on the Web? Dr. David Bird offers his own interpretation of the behavior. BWD/eBWD subscribers, read online »