FIELD NOTES: Disturbed Bird – August 2016

Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

During my career as NYC police officer back in the ʼ60s and ʼ70s on the wild west of the upper west side of Manhattan we often would be given a “job” on the radio from central or when we made a “ring” to the station house of a psycho somewhere on your beat and often the individual was found wandering around in traffic either unaware of the danger or seemingly and sadly challenging cars to hit him. We had many names for these poor souls, mostly demeaning, a flagrant attempt to keep our own sanity when dealing with all the stuff we took care of which we called the “madness.” In time, we changed the tag to an EDP or emotionally disturbed person which was more politically correct and in reality a lot more fair. Emergency room nurses and the police had something called “black humor” which did in reality get many of us through jobs that could have a very negative effect on one’s sanity.

OK, so what made me bring this historical and personal note up? Well I have just had to deal with an EDG or emotionally disturbed grouse. No, I did not rush him off to the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Ward, as they probably would not have admitted him being that there is no avian division, although they may have taken me in his place – I didn’t take the chance. There are many stories out there about the occasional rather strange antics of our ruffed grouse or partridge as they are also known. For example, chasing my car down Bussey Hollow Road to hanging out with a hunter on his tree stand. So what did this guy do? I had just dumped some tree cuttings in one of my regular hidden places making what is called by me and other nature lovers rabitat (habitat for rabbits) and, as I was about to leave on my tractor I caught sight of this guy just ahead of a front wheel looking up at me as though inquiring as to my right to be there. Lucky for him I stopped in time and pulled out my camera and took a couple of shots of this little psycho, sorry, I really mean EDG or emotionally disturbed grouse, who would take a peck at the ground, then look me in the eye as though challenging me to run him over, ah–memories of the human kind. I have a degree in human psychology, not in grouse psychology so I intend not to try to psychoanalyze this dude.

Update on grouse:  June 24th there was a hen out near our mailbox with eleven (counted) young, some already capable of flying off. Mom, I hope all your little ones are healthy and of sound mental health. Two days after the show of grouse fertility I was back at the brush dumping spot and the Emotionally Disturbed Grouse was there and rushed out to greet me. After being on and off the tractor and noisily dumping the brush, I decided to have a conversation albeit rather one sided. I quietly said hello causing him to cock his head, kind of to the side, as people often do when they don’t quite understand what you said. I then quietly stated my views on his mental stability and then left carefully so as not to run him over and to let him mull over on my comments. I am sure we will have more such conversations in the future, that is, if he doesn’t act so nonchalant in front of Wiley Coyote. Recently reported: An EDR was reported by friends. This character has been going about attacking multiple windows of their house and I am wondering if this dude is not an EDR, who sees his image and construes it as an interloper that must be attacked and removed. By the way EDR is not a typo, it is an Emotionally Disturbed Robin. Maybe there is something in our water.

On the bluebirds: The seemingly interested pair spent a whole day checking the interior and the exterior of the house built just for them close to our house, also doing a thorough investigation of the surrounding turf. They eventually declined our offer. Was it because I had not put the usual sawdust on the bottom of the box and that they were turned off by the hardwood floor? They didn’t say. Maybe I need a real estate broker with a good sales pitch. Maybe I’ll call Timberland.

In the small, somewhat ephemeral pond alongside the road there stands the forever statuesque great blue heron who must now sneak a peek into the small spaces between the lily pads that carpet the surface in his continuing hunt for sustenance. Only those small aquatic critters that are quick to identify this feathered predator and manage to escape the thrust of the heron’s lance will survive, for a while.

We human beings, with great hubris, are now manipulating the DNA of living things both animal and vegetative. This is an example of humanity’s domain over nature which leads me to foresee a possible future where nature may no longer be fully “natural,” and I believe that in the end there will be a “reckoning.”Picture4

P.S. My son Kris, an official Catskill Guide, caught a couple of nice smallmouth bass and a catfish on the Pepacton that were all delicious. He took me out the next day; I caught nothing.~