Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cardinal love

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."

I agreed.

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....


sandy shoes said...

In the time-honored tradition of Dave Barry, I will point out that "Superior Bird Love" would make an excellent name for a rock band.

Caustic Cupcake said...

This was beautiful, and I'm glad I found your blog.

bunny said...

That's a lovely story!

I hope it's true for them :)

BBC said...

They looked strangely human.

Na, hell, generally speaking, they are better than that. Humans just pretty much suck at all that.

Generally speaking the females always want more and prettier and newer of everything. But so do many of the males. Rolls eyes.

Oatmeal and raisins sounds good, I made a big batch of, um, don't know what to call it. Cubed spuds, a can of corned beef, six eggs, some cheese, and cooked like an omelet.

It's good, that's all I care about, it's soon just another turd anyway, ha, ha, ha.

So will be having it tomorrow also.

Jill said...

My last bout of bird watching was decidedly more racy. I watched a bunch of birds on the ledge of the house next to my parents' puffing and preening, wondering what the hcek they were doing. Then a male came around and it quickly became clear what was going on. I had to turn away as the bow-chicka-bow-bow bird music started up and he got it on with his chosen mate. And man were those other girls pissed! It was quite a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am type of encounter, and she got an earful after he left. If I had been paying attention, I probably would have learned how to say ho, tramp and trollop in bird.

Earth Muffin said...

Awww...what a sweet story, about the birds and about you and Bing. Mr. EM is also a pro at bringing me treats not long after I hint at them. It's such a small gesture, but a very nice one. You're a lucky lady...and so is she!

Golden To Silver Val said...

Bing's thoughtfulness makes me cry. Its the little things that are so touching.....Bing is a sweetheart.

Mrs. Schmitty said...

You have such a way with story telling. Beautiful post.

the only daughter said...


jyankee said...

Let's hope so too...what a lovely "couple" is the people who watch them from inside their windows every day!

dive said...

That's so sweet, Maria.
Mmmmmmm … Moth. There's a guy who really knows how to seduce a gal.

SassyFemme said...

I just love hearing your stories. I almost always head off of this blog with a smile on my face.

Gypsy said...

Well I hope they love each other as much as you and Bing and that they live a lot longer than 3 years. Having no babies should help lengthen their lives :)

Arial Ray said...

I love the cardinal stories.

We have cardinals in the cemetery nearby. I love to see them in the winter, bright red against the snow.

kristi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Coco said...

I love those cardinals. I feel like there should be a documentary made about them haha

Coco said...

I love those cardinals. I feel like there should be a documentary made about them haha

onebrick said...

That was a lovely story, Maria. I love the way you relate things.

weese said...

that bing... :)

Angelissima said...

awwww! now I want to go put sunflower seeds in my feeder!

justme said...

Nest time is good for the

QuJaBaKa said...

Heya, thanks for your comment on my blog. Wonderin if you could change the link that you have in your blogroll to my new site? Oh and if you really want the extra time when everyone isn't around it may well be that you need to mention to them that you are going to the market or something so they don't need to hurry back!!

Terroni said...

Good hell (or boy howdy or whatever a prairie gal might say), all this from a woman who claims not to like that sappy, drippy shit.

Could have had me fooled there, missy.


zirelda said...

What a neat story.

I have never tried red velvet cake but I'm sure that it was especially good yesterday afternoon.

Fiona said...

That was so utterly beautiful and so evocative - I could see the entire scene unfold through your words. Such wonderful love, on both sides of that window :)

Fusion said...

Great post Maria, and so sweet of Bing!

MmeBenaut said...

You know how much I love birds so this was such a beautiful story.
Boy oh boy, your Bing is so smart!