Welcome Wednesday: When the Blackbirds Returned
Today, we’re excited to introduce a new feature called Welcome Wednesday. Wednesday is the one day of the week where we invite you to share your insight, excitement, and angst about issues pertaining to wild birds and birding. If you’ve got something important to say, 10,000 Birds can be your soapbox. Contact us for more details, but first, enjoy our first Welcome Wednesday contribution. Linda Quinn is sickened by how development in the California foothills is wreaking havoc on habitat and has been documenting the ongoing devastation. The following words and photo are hers:
Not more than twelve hours ago, they were thick in the trees of the parking lot, the skies filled with their birdsong. The males, jet-black with that flash of crimson on their shoulders, enough to startle anyone, were grouped like proud boys, vigorously singing for all they were worth while one female walked the concrete below. The air was filled with their desire, glissando warbling that used to fill the reeds, the water, the private places they called home just last spring. That was before Sam’s Club filled in their paradise and then paved it over.
Today, they are different–not landing in the trees but instead flying high back and forth over the parking lot. There is no mating song, just a shrill cry as if in panic as the males fly from one construction zone to another. landing on the cyclone fence that cordons off the areas of dug up gravel…areas of “No Trespassing” signs, areas of hot tar burning their tiny feet when they land, areas that just last year were pools full of cattail reeds, simple private places to hide and love.
Today there is fear. What happened overnight, between today and yesterday? This morning something has changed. There are far fewer blackbirds now; large seagulls fly overhead screaming and swooping in all directions over the red tile roof of Sam’s Club. A blond child in pink cowboy boots climbs down from inside a black S.U.V. and sees a red-winged male hiding under the savannah grass inside a concrete paving strip.
“Look Daddy,” she exclaims, “What a pretty bird.”
Her father, his shopping list in hand, doesn’t notice her fascination. “Hurry up,” he tells her. He takes her hand and leads her away to the store’s front door.
Folsom, located in the northern California foothills, one-hundred-fifty miles inland is not natural to gulls. Did Elliot Development Co. contract the seagulls to challenge the blackbirds? To get rid of them quickly? Is this the reason the blackbirds are subdued? The construction office, nothing more than faded white plastic on blocks was abandoned. No answers there.
Across eight lanes of traffic named Iron Point Road, a small flock of black bodies gravitate together in a remnant of grassland, scared into flight whenever the light changes and hundreds of cars thunder by. There is no warbling, no beautiful love songs. Yesterday their music filled the air, but today their cries are silent. They know in their hearts it is over.
Near the new Burger King two blackbirds huddle together, their feathers bedraggled, the look in their eyes so painful it could drop you to your knees. They hunkered down tight to a patch of dirt next to a water puddled that migrated through the concrete. With no choice they dipped their beaks and drank from the filthy run-off, the only water left.
The blackbirds, denuded by man of their dignity stand in the field confused. They stand, then sometimes march in tiny steps here and there in the parking lot. You can see them when you lock your car door and head in to do your shopping. They will look at you with questioning eyes. They will ask you as you who walk by. But perhaps you, like most humans, will not look back to see what they are asking. Humans are usually too busy thinking about themselves to notice, in too much of a hurry to care.