I don’t live in Bodega Bay, but I’ve still experienced close encounters of the ornithological kind.
Bodega Bay, movie fans might recall, was the California coastal town plagued by killer crows and other avian species in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller, “The Birds.” After watching that film, even the most devoted member of the Audubon Society would eye Tweety Bird suspiciously.
Good thing our feathered friends in Mt. Lebanon are nothing like the ferocious fowl in Bodega Bay. On the contrary, the winged creatures in our neighborhood are mostly benign, often spirited, frequently amusing, occasionally annoying, and sometimes mischievous—but never attack-prone.
An enterprising mourning dove once took up residence at our home on a second-story window ledge. A jungle of green ivy had crept up a side wall of our house, completely covering the stone and engulfing the sitting-room window.
The mourning dove settled into the thick vine leaves, and being a single mom, laid two small, cream-colored eggs in the nest she built. For days she sat on those eggs, stoic and unmoving, with her plump gray breast, sharp beak, and unblinking ebony eyes pressed up against the windowpane like a trophy encased in glass, her heaving chest the only sign of life.
We nicknamed her “Sitting Mom.” We wondered if she saw us staring at her each morning and observing her throughout the day, checking on the progress of the eggs she nestled.
Finally the baby birds hatched, and Sitting Mom took diligent care to feed and protect them, prodding them to fly as we constantly looked on, until the day they all vanished.
Despite her sundry maternal duties, Sitting Mom conducted her business quietly in a dignified manner, hovering over her brood silently and intently. Not so the sassy red cardinal who suddenly appeared one night fitfully tapping against our kitchen window (shades of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Raven”) and returning at regular noisy intervals during evening hours.
At first we were perplexed by the strange-sounding raps, but soon discovered it was a bird’s beak pecking away at the pane, and once we saw his flashy vermillion form, we were instantly hooked.
We decided to call him “Larry Fitzgerald” after the former Pitt Panther-turned-Arizona Cardinal gridiron star. After making his acquaintance, we excitedly anticipated his persistent window-knocking which continued unabated for weeks as he cavorted from the kitchen window to the dining room window to the basement window. Sadly one day, he, too, disappeared.
Unlike the playful Larry Fitzgerald and the serious Sitting Mom, a flock of loud, obnoxious, squawking crows were more akin to the devious predators in Bodega Bay when they periodically landed atop the telephone wires above our roof and descended en masse into our backyard. Their shrill outcries, furiously flapping wings, scrawny black figures, and menacing airs compelled my husband to give them devilish names—Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, and Dr. Faustus—much to the delight of our young son who chased them, waved his arms at them, and squealed back at them whenever they appeared.
Though the cawing crows were a screeching nuisance, they were far from being a malevolent force or evil personified, as their names suggested. Still they could have auditioned for a starring role in the sequel to “The Birds.” I sense they would have felt right at home in Bodega Bay.
To learn more about birds in Mt. Lebanon or bird-watching beyond your backyard, check out these websites: