Saturday, November 5, 2011
The Mockingbird Returns
One cold winter morning the first year of their arrival one of the humans came out of the house carrying a small plate with jewel-bright pieces of fruit on it. From his tree top he watched as she held the plate up towards him, then placed it down on the ground, all the while singing, "maaaa-ckingbird, maaaa-ckingbird." As soon as her back was turned and the door to the house closed behind her, he flew down to the ground close to the plate and swiveled his head to assess her offering. He hopped closer and with a discerning eye, picked the juiciest pieces of cut-up grapes and blueberries. After sampling several tidbits, he flew into the holly bush to clean his bill. By the end of the day, the plate was empty.
Every morning throughout the winter and into early spring the humans came out and placed the plate on the ground. Some days the mockingbird was quite bold and let the humans come close. Some days he didn't come out until after they'd gone back inside the house. On mornings when she was particularly slow, he chirped impatiently and flew back and forth in front of the window to let her know he was ready to eat.
When each summer came he had other concerns and other sources of food and the plate of fruit went untouched. The humans watched year after year as he courted females and started a family. Some years snakes made off with the eggs or raccoons found the nests and ate the chicks. The mockingbird would sometimes have to build two or three nests before a family could be raised. He never gave up.
On three separate occasions the humans were sure that the mockingbird had met a sad fate: small piles of mockingbird feathers were found in the grass and they mourned the loss of their friend, but each year he reappeared. For four autumns now - including this very one - as the mornings get colder and the days shorter, the mockingbird has returned to sing from the tops of the trees and to receive his daily plate of fresh fruit, lovingly cut-up by the humans who live in his domain.