But--I Didn’t Start It

Apr 18, 2017

Credit Mongo

“But--I didn’t start it,” are words parents and teachers hear regularly. Over decades, I’ve learned that seeing one kid hit another doesn’t mean that child began the fuss. Usually he or she is answering another youngster’s actions. The bad news is I saw what I saw, so I have guide that person back to acceptable behavior at home or in a classroom. A lesson I try to teach is that reacting often draws unwanted attention. 

If you don’t want to get yourself in trouble, don’t slug an irritating bully. That individual knows how the system works and hollers or jumps to draw attention to the one getting even. Often, it’s best to stay quiet and deal with the problem after you’ve given it some thought. This applies to the bird world as well, as I learned this week.

In order to keep track of the number of miles I walk, I take advantage of our local track. During my laps on my first visit, I noticed two western kingbirds raising a racket every time I passed a pair of almost touching light poles. One perched on a nearby wire while the other hovered near the uprights. I looked for a nest, but nothing obvious caught my eye. Despite not finding a nursery full of hungry babies, that adult pair did such a fine job of flying in two directions to draw my eyes away from the site that I was sure they were performing the old avian decoy trick to keep their offspring safe.

This noisy, off nest behavior continued over the next few days until I was certain my path disturbed their happy home. I didn’t want to upset them more than I already had, so I didn’t walk directly to the pole. However, I certainly looked closely, hoping to see the hidden crevice where they’d tucked their young.

As I neared the nest during each quarter mile, I’d scan for sprigs of grass sticking out. Nothing. No easy evidence of occupation--except the disturbed parents. I examined the lights atop the tower for a hidden haven full of squawky babes-- but found zilch. I looked at the base of the poles to see only dirt and turf. This was one tough nest to find with the only evidence of its existence being a pair of noisy birds performing distraction maneuvers.

After I’d completed a couple of miles on the second day, I watched to see the direction from which the adults launched themselves. Hmmm--the middle area of the pole. As I cruised around with sweat dripping down my face, I finally spied the well-hidden incubator. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it, as it was right at eye level.

Mom and dad had carefully tucked their hideaway into a narrow crack between the towering wood shafts so effectively that a shiny metal band hid their grassy abode. As I neared their home, the female on the nest and the male clinging to a nearby support wire once again rose skyward, squawking, scolding, and hovering over my head as I cruised by in speed walk mode. The male chirred angrily just above my straw hat, making me glad I hadn’t disturbed a Mississippi kite.

Though I was sorry to threaten their peace with my morning walks, I thought about how they were like my children who made so much noise getting even with their attacker that I caught them being naughty. If this feathered pair had remained silently in position, I wouldn’t have noticed them. Sometimes no response is the best response if you don’t want to be caught.