Bing and I were sitting in the breakfast nook today, me bleary eyed as usual with my bowl of oatmeal and raisins in front of me, Bing with her power shake and toast. We are lucky in that our breakfast table has a large window in front of it with a lovely view of our backyard and small deck with the back steps leading down.
I looked out just in time to see our yard cardinal swoop up to our back steps light to capture a huge white moth. Our light is always a buffet for dead bugs for the birds but finding one alive is a real treat, I'm sure.
The moth struggled valiantly in the bird's mouth, but there was really no chance for it. Our cardinal perched on the deck railing, the white moth flapping it's wings hard in his clamped beak. The cardinal's mate, a deep russet brown bird with tiny slits of red came flapping over and perched next to her husband, her wings fluttering with glee.
You could see it all over her face. She was so proud of her warrior mate on his kill.
She began trilling exuberantly, telling the rest of the back yard bird population that Oh yes! This is my mate, this is my superior hunting love, my red winged hero!
He lovingly held his beak out to her and shared half of his conquest with her. She coquettishly whipped off half of the moth and chomped it down while he took the other half. When their breakfast was swallowed, they sat side by side on the deck railing, leaning into each other, heads bowed together like the two forever-and-ever mates that they are.
They looked strangely human.
He leaned his neck into hers, stroking it with his beak with such supreme affection and love that I almost felt as if I should look away, as if this were a private moment shared that should be just theirs.
Instead, Bing and I watched shamelessly.
The female leaned back into her mate and her eyes closed for a moment in a act of sheer bird adoration. She was proud of her hunky husband, delighted with his hunting skill and his generosity.
He preened his red feathers brilliantly, basking in her attention.
Bing smiled at me.
"Just wait until they get back to the nest," she said. "He is going to get some superior bird love this afternoon."
We talked for a bit about them, wondering about their story. She looked to be a strange mate for him, he was so brilliantly red and while the female cardinals always looked sort of dowdy next to their brightly colored mates, she was especially so. We decided that the male cardinal was a very smart bird, indeed. Obviously, he knew that looks were the least of what should be important in a mate. He had chosen for love, that much was clear. They both so obviously reveled in the other one.
We often see the cardinal pair winging around the back yard and she is never far from him. They often fly around as a unit, she just a wing or two behind him as they swoop and twirl around the back yard, often stopping to bathe in our bird bath, shooing all the robins, wrens, spackles and even the militant bluejays away. Then he perches on the bird bath rim, allowing her first dibs on the water, watching her wet her feathers and giving her what we have decided are lascivious looks. When she is finished, he takes his turn while she takes long sips of water, raising her neck to the sky and swallowing her water.
They are perfect for each other.
Their nest is in a small, dense shrub that sits in our front yard, just under the bathroom window. In the early mornings as I get ready for work, I often hear them rustling around, sharing their bird thoughts of what they need to do that day. ("I think I will go take a look at that bird feeder down the street, see if they have some of those sunflower seeds that I know you like," I imagine him saying to her as she checks his feathers for knots and tangles. I picture her mmmhmmming him and thinking to herself that she will find some good strong twigs to encircle their nest while he is gone, making it snug for the winter.)
They are a happy couple, content in their joy, not unlike Bing and myself.
I've never heard babies in the two years that they have been tenants in our bushes. I wonder if they've tried and failed or if perhaps, they are simply so joyous in each other's company that they don't care to have baby birds.
According to the article that I pulled up on the internet, Cardinals have very short lives, seldom living for more than three years and that they aren't usually the type to mate for life.
I think my cardinals are different. I think that they are besotted with each other, have found the ideal mate in the other one and can't imagine their lives without each other.
I find myself hoping that they die in each other's wings so that they never have to know life without their mate.
I said this much to Bing this morning and she didn't answer, just reached across the table and took my hands in hers, smiling.
"I hope so too," she said.
And then she offered to go find a moth for me. I jokingly told her that I would settle for a slice of red velvet cake instead.
Imagine my surprise, when after Sunday lunch, she produced a bakery box with two perfect slices of red velvet cake in it.
Liv was at a birthday party, so we had the whole afternoon.
It was a good time to stay in the nest....