Sweet end-of-summer Saturday…

September 11, 2010 § 9 Comments


Are you looking at me?
Why, yes, my good cardinal friend, I am.
OK, then, let me give you a better angle, then, the better to see me.

Oh, lovely. You are quite possibly one of the handsomest of your ilk in Lochcrest.
One of, eh? Well I’ll settle for that today. I am molting, after all.Uh, huh,  birds molt, typically at least once a year. Feathers wear out, those fine little structures of kertain. Molting is the process during which all are replaced, even those feathers that were wounded, missing or lost.


Scientists confess they are hard-pressed to get it all down, how this molting thing goes, but it’s hormonal and also typifies racial instinct, especially for those birds dealing with harsh weather and physical conditions (like those little fellows that live in marshes and brambly places.) Some birds molt more than others; it’s also individual thing, particularly in male pattern baldness due to molting. And for those who lose significant headfeathers at one time, it’s neither embarassment nor disease. Yes, their little black-skinned heads show through, at which time they all have a certain vulture resemblance, and that bald pate reduces some human types to thinking that something is amok in the neighborhood and have been known to call animal rescue about a illness among the flocks. 

But no, one bluejay may lose his “headdress,” while another will not show a wink of loss.
It is no surprise that some birds molt twice a year, including that “pre-nuptial” shed when their everyday  feathers are replaced with  bright and flashy hues of their original coloring. This molt has its positive effect (because love is in the air) and it works, thus it is repeated by the species. 

My non-scientific contribution is that this summer’s terrific constant heat has forced molting of nearly every bird pedigree we’ve seen, from the ducks to the owl. How odd to see them all messy and uncombed. Even the brilliant little yellow finch who haunts our sunflowers has a certain shabbiness about him rather than his usual cadillac shine.

Book recommendation:
THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS by Gayle Brandeis
OK, actually, I haven’t read this. I’ve read about it and found it at the book fair so it’s on the TBR shelf, (well, actually, no, it’s in the TBR bag since I cleaned off my bookshelves in a spate of irritation stemming from looking at all the books I have NOT yet read.)
Anyway, I am reading FRUITFLESH (still) which is also written by Brandeis. It’s not a bad book about writing, although her oft comparisons to women as fruit and sweetness and discovery sometimes has me going “ew.” But I perservere, gleaning what I can about what she gleaned in terms of the writing life. And so I look forward to reading her above-mentioned book.

Because it was an award-winner and because it goes with my “bird” theme somewhat, I am trumpeting it here!


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§ 9 Responses to Sweet end-of-summer Saturday…

  • ds says:

    Well, now you’ve piqued my curiosity about The Book of Dead Birds–will wait for your final opinion, however. Thank you for the explanation of my darling cardinals’ sudden descent into shabbiness…

    • oh says:

      Dear DS, Yes, I will definitely update you on Book of DBs. I rousted it from the pile today. I am so tempted to call in to the office tomorrow. And read…I am so behind. I am so ready to do nothing but read. And blogworld inspires it even more.

      Maybe I’ll stay up tonight and read? I dunno, but I have to really be “on” tomorrow at the offices.
      stay tuned!

  • shoreacres says:

    Oh, my. I’d forgotten about the molting – that does explain my poor blue jays, who suddenly looked like they’d contracted some terrible disease. And the grackels, too… I’m just vastly relieved. Nothing wrong with their appetites, though!

    I miss the cardinals so – there’s no cover for them here. The prefer a woodsier place. It makes your photos of them even more special.

    Glad to see The Book of Dead Birds is a novel. I’d hate to think it a photojournalistic essay!

    Which reminds: did you see/read the Italian Vogue piece on the oil spill? The one with the models covered in oil and splayed out over the rocks?
    Speaking of “Ewwww….”

    • oh says:

      Linda! ohmygosh – Yes, I saw the August VOGUE shoot, done by the immensely talented Mr. Meisel!
      And yes, ditto on your “ew!”
      and yet it’s so Euro of the Italian edition to include it.
      Nope, that wouldn’t happen here; I don’t think the inimitable Editor Anna W would allow it. Kinda crazy, too, though, that the pictures were shot in California. Go figure.
      Fashion needs to be “aware” though, fashion needs to “play” if it wants to carry any veracity.
      It’s the kind of bad publicity that’s still good.

      Now about that BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS: geez, what a title, eh? But it’s an award winner and now, since I’ve mentioned it, I’m gonna read it – asap and get back to ya’ll!

  • mandy says:

    Beautiful pictures. I never really notice birds molting. I had better start paying closer attention.

    • oh says:

      Hi, M!The birds seem to be eating all day now, not just in the morning or evening so catch them whenever you’re out and about. I guess they’ll all start migrating soon, though. Darn. I’ll miss my little yellow finches. And even our cardinals migrate, but then we get the cardinals from the North. no kidding, there are (at least) two types so when “ours” go south for the winter, we’ll get the “northern” ones.
      I know, it sounds like I sit around and watch them all the time, but not really. Actually, if I could steal more time in the backyard, typing away at the patio table amidst the birds, I would do so!
      Hope you had a glorious weekend!

  • jeanie says:

    How do you know all this stuff? I think I molt regularly. I know the Gypsy does. They call it shedding, but same deal!

    Nice photo of the cardinal!

  • Bella Rum says:

    The cardinal is one of my favorites. He’s our state bird. My avatar or icon for my blog is a photo of a cardinal that I snapped outside my window.

    So, those lost feathers are replaced. I can’t tell you how much I cotton to that idea. My hair is getting thinner everyday. How nice it would be if it would only replenish itself.

    Oh, and that word… spate… love it. Don’t know exactly why. It just appeals.

  • Carrie says:

    I love reading your book recs… I’m chugging along on my “must” list and can’t wait to read my fun list…. will share soon

    p.s. really digging the new look over here!

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