Once in a while not too often I’ll hear from someone who insists that the world would be a kinder, gentler place without us, that without all those pesky humans despoiling the premises, the forest creatures and the sea kittens and all would live together in peaceful harmony. Inevitably, this proves to be someone who grew up in a series of condominiums and believes that leprechauns eat breakfast cereal: the vast majority of us know better than that. Left to their own devices, nature’s preferred that is to say, nonhuman creatures will behave in remarkably human ways.
This morning, a solitary grackle, probably from three or four blocks over, popped into my back yard and poked around on the freshly-mowed (last night, anyway) grass for potential food sources. At first, things were quiet. Then ominous shadows appeared, from all four corners: the mockingbirds who control this zone had spotted the intruder. The grackle, up to that point relatively oblivious to what was going on, decided to look up, and evidently didn’t like what he saw. Exit, stage left. The mockingbird patrol did a couple more laps around the premises, then retreated to wherever it is they conceal themselves. (I’ve spotted, or I think I’ve spotted, two nests, neither actually in my yard. Birds in general, though, are indifferent to fencing.)
What’s remarkable about this, at least to me, is that the birds’ concept of zoning, at least in this part of town, is rather like City Hall’s: your big, burly birds tend to be located closer to the shopping centers, the smaller birds occupy smaller areas with more trees, and neither group has much use for the other, irrespective of what connections between them may exist behind the scenes. I hesitate, however, to stretch this comparison any further.