Monday, March 28, 2016
This is my father's world
I'm told the male kestrel is grayish blue, even orange-looking, which means the determined hunter who entertained our whole family so royally yesterday during a wonderful Easter dinner was a woman, because, just in case you're wondering, the American kestrel is sexually dimorphic.
Before you run off to Wikipedia, sexually dimorphic means, simply, that males and females aren't created equal. Well, they're created equal, but obvious physical differences make them look different--think ringneck pheasants, for example, who also occupy our backyard, or wood ducks or mallards. Donald Trump would say, "think human beings." He's not wrong. About most things he's not to be trusted, but human beings are sexually dimorphic too, like kestrels, sometimes called sparrow hawks.
One of which, this one, a woman, did some serious weekend hunting outside our back windows yesterday, in the middle of an Easter ham which I would be happy to admit was "to die for" if that phrase weren't inappropriate anywhere near to Holy Week. BTW, our Easter dinner was terrific; the pretty human female I live with--we're sexually dimorphic too--was on top of her game.
But this particular kestrel, this little feathered hovercraft, had our grandkids fighting over the binoculars as she gathered her own Easter meal, probably a field mouse. She's no bigger than a robin, but that distinctive beak gives away her origins: she's a falcon, the tiniest member of the family. Try to imagine a cute falcon, and you've got a kestrel.
Be not deceived--she's no Disney character. Kestrels know exactly what they're doing.
They're killers. When she grabs a field mouse out of the grasses out back, she quite deftly snaps its spine. Fortunately, yesterday, we missed her dirty work. She pulled something out of the grass, toted it to the cornfield out back, and lunched bloodily out of sight among the stubble.
But her hunt was a delight to watch. She's regal and slim, weighing in at no more than four ounces; and she's blessed with a significant wingspan and a tail like a windmill rudder--well, that's stretching it. But she can tread air for as long as she needs to, the talent that had us all oohing and aahing yesterday at our dinner. Couldn't have paid for better entertainment.
And then there were these guys up on the side of a hill along the Little Sioux River, same place as last year. They're prairie crocuses, sometimes called pasque-flowers by people who prefer sounding as cultured.
They're a provincial favorite in Manitoba, but not to be eaten, according to Wikipedia, who claims they are highly toxic because they slow the heart. Chew too many and you may be beset with "diarrhea, vomiting and convulsions, hypotension (LOW blood pressure) and coma." Listen to this: "Blackfoot Indians used it to induce abortions and childbirth." My grandson and I, who hiked up the hill to find them, didn't indulge.
I'll have you know the ditches are greening nicely right now, snow from a winter storm last week having melted sweetly into the ground. Winter's toughest blows are behind us.
Ditch grass is nice, but the prairie crocus is the real star of early spring. Where they grow, they fight their way through to sunlight. They don't dominate like sun flowers, but they're always first on stage. They begin the show. Fragile as they seem, they punch through dead grass on a mission to remind us once again that new life already has its bags packed and is on its way.
Call me a dreamer, but I think the prairie crocus is created especially for Easter.
Yesterday we had a good one, a good Easter, in case you're wondering. Worship in church, at home, and out in the rustling grass, where once again, robed in his own wonders, we heard him pass. He speaks to us everywhere.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:29 AM