Saturday, March 31, 2007

Magpie Magic

Jim Banholzer


After digesting a nice quiet lunch one summer solstice afternoon, and tossing table scraps out the van window, I jerked the rusted ’79 Ford door open in the newspaper’s back lot. This jolted three Magpies who had been attending to the van’s roof, down to a narrow perch below the windshield. After these moments in which the three Magpies and I were harmonized together in chaotic motion, I instantly froze with one leg stiff out the door to watch them in their new sentinel spots, as one reoriented, jumping inches over my hand, which tightly gripped the swinging driver’s door still, keeping the bright birds from startling off again.
It wasn’t often that I had seen shimmering Magpies this close up. Part of me sensed that they knew of my presence and could see inside me well enough to know I would not harm them. I felt ticklish, like any second one or two of them might actually bound onto my shoulder or lightly peck my head. For two or three minutes, I witnessed their whiling dervish hops about the van and then scrapping back onto its faded top. I wished that somebody else were seeing this from the much-cloistered newsroom. But I dared not move, not even my head. A minute later, a person swooped loudly out from the building side door, lofting the magpies over to an apple tree.
As I watched them embark to the applewood, they soared past by the newspapers rear windowpanes, where a half dozen beaming employees had flocked to see this spectre. This reminded me of a wintertime when some Bohemian Waxwing’s came to feast from the fermented fruit of the same Johnny Appleseed.

From the Mt. Express:
Bohemian Rhapsody
"A Bohemian waxwing, the big brother to the smaller cedar waxwing, stands out among a flock of the colorful birds that recently congregated in a Ketchum tree replete with overripe apples. These opportunistic feeders are often accused of mass, gluttonous eating. Waxwings, or masked fruit bandits, love berries and prefer open woodland habitat to live and mate. These social birds migrate through Central Idaho as food supply dictates and often take turns sharing food on trees or shrubs, opposed to the chaotic competition that some other bird species tend to exhibit. Their peaceful chirping can bring additional joy to those who listen."

Jenney, our highly capable front desk person had taken that day off for her birthday when these waxwings visited. A day later I told her they had come to wish her happy birthday and that, it seemed to me that the chirps sound like :))) click ((chirp! Happybirthday! Twitter, cheep, I tried to emulate the bohemian rhapsody performance of Jenney’s birthday song. Naturally, she thought I was pulling her leg, so even though it was deadline day, for proof, I collared our well-respected and wise octogenarian columnist Betty Bell, who was witness to the Rhapsody, along with the above photo adorned by an added cartoon balloon coming from the bird’s mouth replete with song note icons wishing Jenney her best birthday wishes.
This is when she said that she now half-believed me.
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To be continued…

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