Thursday, June 20, 2013

well, there's still the cabbage leaf theory

I doubt my mother ever told me that the stork brought me.

That is not her style as a child of the Enlightenment.  Storks.  Santa Claus.  The Easter Bunny.  They were all a lot of clutter that blocked a growing boy's access to Truth.

And being the iconoclast I am, I would have doubted that any of our Oregon birds was capable of packing around the chunks of humanity parents checked out of hospitals.  Even if I then knew the air-speed velocity of an African Swallow.  (I think that is your cue, Gary.)

If I had actually seen a stork when I was young, I might have have been persuaded by the behind-the-school Aristotles of my boyhood.  Certainly, if I had seen one of the wood storks here in Melaque.

My landlady called me earlier in the week to inform me she had spotted an entire flock of wood storks on the new bypass road to La Huerta.  She had told me the same thing last year.  But when I drove out to the the described area last year, they had already flown the coop.

This time I was not going to miss them.  I got a later start than I had intended.  Because of our stoking heat, most birds find cover well before noon.  And I was heading out around 1 in the afternoon.

I knew the area she described.  I slowed down and saw nothing.  Then I noticed a large bird soaring over the hill.  And then six or seven more soaring on the updrafts.  Vultures, I thought.  There is a black vulture rookery on the other side of the hill.

But the shape was all wrong.  Instead, of the utilitarian blockiness of a vulture, this bird was Concorde sleek.  With clearly marked black and white feathers.  A wood stork.  Lots of wood storks.

I pulled over and watched where they were landing.  That's when I saw them.  Several trees filled with wood storks.

There is something about big that attracts humans to wildlife.  We like big whales.  We like big elephants.  And, amongst the birds, we are always impressed most with birds that approach our height.

It is probably primordial.  We are in awe of anything big enough to kill us.

And primordial the wood stork is.  I lament the fact that my camera (especially in zoom mode) is not adequate to capture the odd look of the wood stork.  It could have has just winged out of a Lost World film.  Wrinkled and bald.  Uncle Fester with wings.

Big birds alone are awe-inspiring.  Big birds flocked-up are overwhelming.  I must have stood there for over an hour watching them practice their touch-and-gos -- and simply soaring for what appeared to be the pure enjoyment of flying.  I felt akin.

They appear to be itinerant.  Over the past year, I have seen one or two during the rainy season, searching for a scaly lunch amongst the roseate spoonbills, great egrets, and yellow-crowned night herons.  But this is the first time I saw them clustered. 

If the sun is not too much for them, I am going to see if I can find them again this afternoon.  And I suspect I will not find a bundle of joy tied in a blanket hanging from any of their bills.

Maybe a better camera would help.

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