By Jerry Zezima
I’m for the birds. Unfortunately, they’re not for me.
That was sadly evident after I took part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a worldwide annual program in which gullible humans are tasked with counting the birds in their bathrooms.
Sorry, I mean their backyards.
After four days of looking up, which can lead to tree collisions and neck cramps, participants have to report the results via app or computer or, as I did, by returning bird counting packets to their local library.
This is all so scientists at places like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society can find out why some avians are crazy enough to stick around and freeze their tail feathers off during the winter instead of flying first-class to Florida and getting their jollies by pooping on the cars of their fellow snowbirds.
The day after picking up my bird counting packet, I spotted a woodpecker pecking on a tree and wondered how much wood a woodpecker could peck if a woodpecker would just peck wood instead of trying to jackhammer my house, as many annoying members of their species have done over the years.
Unfortunately, I saw the redheaded rascal on a Thursday and the count was supposed to start the next day.
On Friday morning, I was up with the birds and — you guessed it — never saw even a single one the entire day.
Saturday, I was sure, would be better. It wasn’t. Not a robin, crow or any other kind of bird in sight.
Usually, they flock to my backyard like swallows to Capistrano, pigeons to Venice or orioles to Baltimore.
I began to wonder if anyone had told the birds about the bird count.
I was getting desperate, so I dropped panko bread crumbs on the patio to lure hungry, unsuspecting or just plain stupid birds. It didn’t work.
Then I went to the shed to get a birdhouse. I leaned it against a tall oak and watched. Not a peep.
The Great Backyard Bird Count was at the halfway point and I was beginning to suspect that my fine feathered friends had gone into the Federal Witness Protection Program.
Finally, on Sunday, at 11:15 a.m., I was upstairs when I heard my wife, Sue, who was downstairs, excitedly shout, “Hon, you got a bird!”
I rushed down and looked out the family room window to see a blue jay perched on a high branch of the aforementioned oak.
“Look,” Sue said, pointing skyward, “there’s another one.”
I marked down two blue jays on the tally sheet of my bird counting packet.
As if a birdie board meeting had been called, a pair of cardinals showed up. I marked them down, too.
But as soon as I opened the door to step outside and get a better look, all four feathery visitors flew off.
“You scared them,” said Sue, adding that the cardinals were, in her estimation, “a mommy and a daddy.”
“Daddy cardinals are more colorful,” I told her. “I might even say more beautiful.”
“Like you?” replied Sue, who said, “We used to have a nice family of cardinals living in the backyard. I guess they moved, but I don’t know where they went.”
“Probably to St. Louis,” I guessed.
“Why?” Sue asked.
“To join the St. Louis Cardinals,” I said.
Sue looked like she wanted to peck my eyes out, so I didn’t mention anything about the Toronto Blue Jays.
On Monday, the last day of the bird count, I was in the family room when I heard squawking. I looked out the window and saw five dark-colored birds having an argument. I don’t know if they were blackbirds or cowbirds, but I do know that they must have seen me marking them down on my tally sheet because they immediately flitted away, mocking me as they went.
Thus ended the Great Backyard Bird Count. Final tally: nine birds and one flighty human.
The Audubon Society will know who’s the biggest birdbrain.
Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima