Birds of a feather

The Compass - - Editorial - Harold Wal­ters My Im­per­fect Slant

June 23 was a Big Day high on a pole in Snow’s Lane – but I’ll get back to that.

First though, some re­flec­tions on my bay-boy youth and a daily bay-boy chore.

Our hens were my re­spon­si­bil­ity. I fed them their scratch. I lugged buck­ets­ful of conch shells from the beach, pul­ver­ized them with a ham­mer, and hove them into the hens’ yard for ex­tra grit. I col­lected eggs … which could be haz­ardous when Biddy was broody.

Biddy, our brood hen, was a de­voted mother, the feath­ered in­cu­ba­tor of many a clutch of eggs des­tined to be­come dozens of fluffy chicks.

When Biddy was hatch­ing a brood, she was a fear­some fowl that fu­ri­ously at­tacked any­thing she felt threat­ened her in-shell ba­bies…

… me, for in­stance, when I inched past her nest to collect eggs else­where in the hen-house. If I ac­ci­dently knocked against her nest, Biddy in­stantly be­came a mael­strom of feath­ered fury fas­tened to my col­lar, rak­ing my neck with cat-curled talons and peck­ing my nog­gin with a tripham­mer beak.

I of­ten de­liv­ered our egg bas­ket to Mammy while rivulets of blood streamed down my neck from weep­ing scalp wounds.

“Serves you right for tor­ment­ing Biddy,” Mammy mostly said, ac­cept­ing the hard-shelled har­vest.

“Harry, my hy­per­bolic Hon,” says Dear­est Duck, “I’m sure that is not what your mother said.”

“Words to that ef­fect, my Duck,” say I.

Other than at­tack­ing me, Biddy sat on her eggs for hours, for days, for weeks and … well, brooded.

Which brings me back to the pole on Snow’s Lane.

Atop the pole the Light and Power Boys have built a plat­form, a roost, a nest­ing site for Shanawdithit the os­prey and her mate, Beau­mont the fish hawk.

(Here’s a squeezed-in foot­note: A young maid from Outer Cove be­stowed Beau­mont with his prize-win­ning name.)

Al­beit an in­va­sion of os­prey pri­vacy, the LPBs have in­stalled a live os­prey nest CAM so any Tom who so de­sires can have a peep at Shanny and Beau.

Tom’s like me, for in­stance, who has spent hours, and days, and weeks watch­ing Shanny … well, again, brood.

That’s a lie. This be­ing Mod­ern Times, Beau takes his turn nestling on the trio of mot­tled eggs and al­lows Shanny time off to at­tend to per­sonal mat­ters — fly off to a spa and have her talons man­i­cured, or what­ever.

“Harry, you are be­lit­tling no­ble crea­ture.”

“Just fun­ning, my Duck.” Of course, I haven’t watched Shanny 24/7, just off and on.

By the way, Shanny is fa­mous way be­yond her pole-high pen­t­house boudoir on Snow’s Lane. a She’s well-known by or­nithol­o­gists from New­found­land to Venezuela be­cause…

… well, just look at her — she’s tagged and has a trans­mit­ter — an­tenna and all — fas­tened to her back, mak­ing her look like some kind of cy­borg rap­tor. Sure, she spent Christ­mas near the Orinoco River, wher­ever that is.

For days and weeks not much hap­pened. A piece of plas­tic bag ap­peared tan­gled in the nest of sticks. Wind-blown? Or, p’raps Shanny or Beau tucked it in while I wasn’t watch­ing. One day a blasty bough lay on the nest, and then van­ished. Wind-blown? A length of or­ange twine — a plaited piece of an onion bag? — be­came part of the nest.

Shanny swapped seats with Beau; Beau swapped seats with Shanny.

Pretty bor­ing be­ing an os­prey, eh b’ys? Bor­ing as be­ing Biddy, p’raps.

Un­til the Big Day came. When I looked at the nest CAM on June 23, the first of Shanny’s eggs had hatched and a new-born chick flopped around knock­ing against its un­born sib­lings.

“Ah, how cute is that,” said Dear­est Duck when I called her to see the chick.

At one point, Shanny ar­rived back at the nest tot­ing a green bough — bring­ing a flower to cel­e­brate, I s’pose. And that’s all right be­cause Shanny and Beau are a Mod­ern-Day pair of par­ent os­preys.

It’s June 25 as I scrib­ble. All three chicks tum­ble over one an­other, beaks agape, wait­ing for grub. And, b’ys oh b’ys, Beau is lug­ging home fish faith­fully.

Shanny swapped seats with Beau; Beau swapped seats with Shanny. Pretty bor­ing be­ing an os­prey, eh b’ys?

See MOTHERLY AC­TION pg A6

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