Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Magic Shrub

Naturalist Julie Zickefoose recently told about an encounter with migrating warblers and her subsequent rescue mission to Chicago's fabled "Magic Hedge."

Down here in our neck of the woods, we've got our own version of the Magic Hedge. Well, okay, so it's really more of a magic shrub, and it doesn't serve such a grand purpose as Chicago's birding landmark. It sits outside the kids' after school center, bordering a busy parking lot. But around this time every year, I would swear that it really is magic!


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The magic usually begins each day a few hours past lunchtime. Suddenly out of nowhere, the quiet is broken as one or two birds wing over to perch atop the square-trimmed shrubbery. Then the music quickly swells as dozens more appear as if by magic. And for the next several hours, this bush is teeming with hyperactivity.


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Birds are whirring overhead almost faster than you can follow, flying from one section of hedge to another. Sometimes whole groups of them alight on top of the bush, alternately twittering to one another and grabbing berries and bugs from the top layer of leaves.

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More often than not the visitors are house sparrows, although I have seen several others stop by from time to time. They duck inside the twining branches of the bushes, then seconds later pop out somewhere else altogether.

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Some are curious and unafraid, often perching just at the edge of the hedge and peering at the cars and drivers moving about nearby.

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Others are more reticent, shyly peeking out from the concealment of the bush's branches and twigs.

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Then suddenly one will pipe an alarm, and it is as if some powerful spell had been uttered.

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Instantaneously, every diminutive inhabitant of that magical place disappears, and the silence is deafening. A new visitor has arrived to sample the fruits of this enchanted shrub.

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Almost as if he realizes the affect his presence has had, the mockingbird quickly grabs a few berries and flies away to enjoy his treat. And within seconds, the magic shrub erupts once again in its raucous chorus of life.

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1 comment:

KatDoc said...

You might call that shrub magic, Kyle, but I call it a nightmare. All those House Sparrows - ugh, double ugh, triple UGH! Can't stand the little creeps.

Now, that mockingbird is sweet! If only you could persuade it to stay there and scare away the sparrows ...


~Kathi, bluebirder and HOSP-hater