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Updated 4:21pm - Jul 26, 2016

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Gopher Gulch: Baby bird season

Inez Castor

Humans have a strange fascination with time. That's why we feel the need to mark it off in increasingly smaller pieces and attach names to each piece.

Once seconds were the tiniest bit of time we knew. Now there are instruments that measure femtoseconds, which is a second broken into tenths and then divided by 15.

A few thousand years ago, we had seasons, and it was probably a much easier time to live in. There was the occasional mastodon stampede, but other than that, life was fairly simple. Kill something, eat it, belch, sleep. Repeat for as many seasons as possible.

Then the thinkers began naming things. When they ran out of things to name, they started in on abstract concepts, and the world has been going to hell in a handbasket ever since.

Marking time by the birds

I've learned the names of time spans I need to know, which permits me to write "July" on my timesheet instead of "The time of the adolescent feather folk." The fiscal department prefers it that way.

Nevertheless, to me this is the time when dumb young robins hop right up to the cat. As long as Smoky holds still, they don't recognize him as a threat.

Baby birds are learning to fly, and like kids, some mature quicker than others. I stopped at the mailbox last week, stepped out of the car, got the mail, and turned around to find a young house sparrow teetering precariously on my door.

After resting and fluffing for a few seconds, it tackled the big issues of gravity and wing coordination again, and off it flew, over-correcting like a new student driver.

One fisherman, obviously new to the area, made the mistake of leaving his catch in the back of his pickup when he stopped at the store. Young crows still wearing a couple of light feathers, the avian equivalent of a boy's peach fuzz beard, took care of his catch for him. Bystanders found the show highly entertaining.

Birds and humans

Teenage hummingbirds that weigh a quarter of an ounce have illusions of grandeur. Proving to the girls how powerful they are, they threaten to whip you two falls out of three when you try to fill the feeder.

And incidentally, the mixture of sugar to water should be no more than one part sugar to four parts water. You're not doing them a favor by making a stronger solution, because their tiny, delicate tube of a tongue can't properly process it.

My favorites are the turkey vultures and ravens. Turkey vultures don't learn to fly—they hatch knowing how. On the ground they look like an unmade bed, but their beauty and grace in the sky makes me cry from some deep longing to glide with them.

And ravens? Ravens are most like people. They complain loudly and bitterly when they're kicked out of the nest. They invent new curses and practice them while hanging out in gangs at the spruce tree. They steal shiny stuff and eat junk food. They're smarter than their parents and they don't care what time it is.

Reach Inez Castor, a long-time Triplicate columnist, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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