Yesterday, the backyard was a nursery. First, three tailfeather-less starlings alighted on the railing, no more than ten feet away, looked at me as if I were a fixture, and proceeded to screech uproariously for Mom, who flitted nervously, branch to branch, above them.
Then, a similarly tailfeather-less young robin pumped up his speckled chest and jumped up the walk. He too--or she--like the starling-lings, seemed more afraid of flying than she was afraid of me. It was pre-school--and just as much as noise.
Then a pair of mourning doves decided to alight on the clothes-line pole, and because of the profusion of progeny, I simply assumed it was but another mother and child reunion.
There seemed to be some teaching going on--proper grooming, for instance.
But this was no chalkboard classroom; whatever etiquette was being passed along was done in person--like mother, like child.
And it wasn't a quick object lesson--it went on for several minutes, each of them observing, then almost losing themselves in the job at hand--or beak. On the basis of their persistence, one might have thought they were Dutch.
Wasn't pre-school at all. Imagine my shock when, right there on our clothesline pole, all that primping and preening climaxed, you might say, in a ritual dance I certainly hadn't anticipated, something one might call dove-making love-making.
Once the mission was accomplished, they spoke intimately to each other (a conversation to which I was not privy),
and then proceeded once more to some shy, post-coital cleanliness ritual.
Lest you think this all of this scandalous, be advised that mourning doves do, experts believe, mate for life. Trust me--there was nothing flighty about this relationship, nothing illicit, although it may have been a bit immodest of them to use so public a place as our clothes-line pole. A fairly steep Calvinist ethic still does rule in this town, of course. Generally, we don't make love on clothes-line poles, although there are always those who would say that some rules are made to be broken.