I'm taking a break from birds for a moment in order to pause and grieve the loss of one of our most intelligent, insightful and, importantly, ethical Supreme Court jurists, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a tremendous role model for so many young women in our country. In fact, she exemplified the importance of role models.
We so desperately need to get back to good people with decent characters and strength in visible positions of leadership. Years ago, I rated corporate bonds for a large rating agency in New York. The energy department was changing and I and another director were put in charge of a new field of ratings that addressed project finance. I won't get into all that boring finance stuff, but basically this new area led to start up companies or fresh subsidiaries with unusual structures meeting with us to discuss the possibility of public debt ratings. There was no history, only projection. We put considerable weight on the qualifications of the CEO. His character, how he led. Because his modeling was critical. It would bleed through the entire company. Respect would enliven morale, disrespect dampen it and lead to loss of top management. When industry changes, and new forms of structure and finance emerge, retaining top management is key to survival. This is true for government, too, even though politics appears to be more of a war nowadays. We need to start seeing the importance of behavior modeling. Bad models, similar to bad management at corporations, bleeds into us. Good models, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, lift us up.
The loss of Ginsburg also threatens a critical balance that has always anchored our liberal democracy. A majority Supreme Court that reflects extreme minority views, particularly in regard to civil liberties and the balancing of societal costs--such as environmental protections-- combined with our current erosion of checks and balances, threatens our liberal democracy. We are a republic and, from what I have read, the erosion of liberal democracy will not look like other countries that have drifted towards authoritarianism. We may survive in bubbles of locality at first, but the inevitable corruption and dismantling of our necessary management of societal costs and individual liberties will eventually impact all of us.
Why do I bring all this up? Well, this is what my next novel, DEAD FISH... and What the Blue Jays know is about. Yes, it's light and has quirky characters, but it also addresses this idea--that bad behavior --lying, corruption, win at any cost etc-- will infect all of us like a virus. Some may deny, some behave unethically, some drift into a form of nihilism. Furthermore, our acceptance of extremist, minority positions in our highest court will threaten our democratic foundations and survival. I hope we don't head there. I hope my novel is just a what-if story that makes for an interesting read.
Rest in peach, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Your integrity and insight will be missed.
Turkeys, or, Buddhist Birds.
Lorene is one of the females, although she could very well be two or three females and I just call them all Lorene because it is very hard to differentiate females. Males are easier, particularly in feather display during mating season. The video above--or to the side-- shows a flock of males who came by looking for females last spring. And the picture above that one is the male who is in love with Lorene--- the Brad Pitt of Turkeys whom I've named Harold. Harold does not linger around my yard, he arrives, he goes after Lorene. Going after a female in the world of Turkeydom is not aggressive, but, instead, passive, gorgeous and patient, patient, patient. The male display of feathers and inflamed snood (over the beak) and wattle (the red, sometimes purple skin on the neck) is amazing to watch. It's a lovely, beautiful and most importantly peaceful dance. As is common in the avian world, the female is in control of mating. This makes evolution managed entirely by females. This is particularly true in the Turkey world. The female Turkey chooses her mate and can freely back out of the deal at any time (or this is what I observed.). There is no rape in the Turkey world. If the female says no, then it's no. I will discuss mating later, though, because it is.. Just. So. Fascinating! It requires an entire few blog posts to discuss.
The picture above is of the wonderful Lorene and her amazing babies. She started out with five, now it's merely three and I fear they will not survive the Hawk migration season. I have my fingers crossed.
Before I move on, I'd like to add my thoughts on bird intelligence. I think cognitive ability is a relative concept. That is true not only in the human world, but also, IMO, in the bird world. While the Turkey has a reputation for having a rather limited I.Q., I don't believe they are dumb birds. They are actually quite astute in many ways. Assessing brain competence depends upon what you are looking at--survival, emotional control, intuition, creativity? My observations have revealed, an incredibly intuitive and alert bird. The females usually raise the young in matriarchal flocks, but Lorene has managed alone. She runs from the other females who actually try to find her, bring her and the babies into their flock. Or maybe they are chasing her for nefarious reasons. I do not understand their motivations. All I know is what I see. And I see her running from the other female Turkeys, the babies running after her, the flock chasing them. Based upon my readings, this behavior is unusual. This chase tells me there's a story. And when there's a story, there's a degree of emotional and social intelligence. The fact that she insists on raising them alone says she has seen something, experienced something, remembered it and acts accordingly. It tells me she is a very concerned and devoted mother.
Lorene and her babies--even the other "Aunties" who chase her and come around pecking at fallen seeds under my bird feeder-- are, usually, very peaceful and generous birds. I've never seen them bully any other bird, even though they could easily do damage with their long fingered talons and powerful legs. The other birds keep a distance, but are not fearful of them. They make low subtle noises but are mostly quiet and shy. Well, the females are quiet. Mating season is another story. Males are very loud!
Their competence and peaceful natures inspired my name for them-- Buddhist birds.
September 14th, 2020
Ok below, we have the gang. Louse and Bubba are to the right of the screen. The gang shows up but as soon as I walk out, they know the routine. Slowly they march to the pond. I do toss corn to them over the fence. I am not that mean. They understand the yard belongs to the matriarch, mate and offspring--grandchildren etc. I have to really pay attention to how she behaves around the ducks to determine if a few are related to her. Usually the related ducks fly in with her first, then the others, mostly males, or drakes, fly over later. They usually linger around my pond until molting is complete, which is soon. Then most fly south. Bubba and Louise usually stay around here, or within a few miles from my town. All ducks can fly now, but as they molt and replace ugly brown with gorgeous colorful mating feathers, they'll lose flight feathers. I think many stay around our pond because during their vulnerable molting, they feel safe here. We have plenty of hawks and other predators, but they can avoid Hawks. The do disperse to various locations when the heavy molting occurs.
I like to write about people, animals, dogs. I enjoy ideas, good books about ideas, funny books about ideas, funny people who have ideas, advocates for people who don't have voices to express their ideas, and animals who have ideas we can't understand.