Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the trail of the Black Phoebe

The great thing separating us humans from dogs and Zunes is our quest for understanding.
I haven’t researched that, but I have three dogs and a young adult daughter, so the empirical evidence points that way.
I’ve also read all the stories appearing in newspapers about rats, mice, and staying young through puzzling out things, or at least engaging in challenging games like pinochle and curling.
I personally have never curled anything (except, long ago, my hair), but I have played pinochle, and if anything will curl your hair, a rousing game of pinochle will do it. No matter how many trump I held, my father could take my tricks because he was simply better at it than I. My dogs, I point out here, cannot play pinochle, which is a shame because I believe I would win.
At any rate, I’m qualified as a parent, dog owner, and college graduate to speak about the human intellect and curiosity as a means of discovering the world around us. Teenagers are proof that curiosity is what separates humans from Ipods. Those devices can absorb lots of information and they require a certain intelligence to use, but they also are dumber than rocks without a human.
A bird began to visit the garden some time ago, and I asked, “What kind of bird is that?” At the time, my daughter was too busy downloading ring tones to answer, and to this day she couldn’t tell you why on earth it matters to me what kind of bird it is. She also can’t play pinochle.
I cruised the Internet and my 1960s era bird guides looking for information about this bird. I am dogged about things that capture my curiosity, as are my dogs when their highly evolved noses tell them: A squirrel was here! I am much more intelligent than they are, because my beagles will bay at the same sycamore tree for hours after a squirrel has moved on to the pine and is laughing its head off at the stupid dogs.
I am smarter than your average beagle because if I hit a dead end, I go at it from another angle. I found the website for our area Audubon Society, and sent a photo of the bird with a query to a local professor I found listed there, whose name is Mike.
“The bird in question is a black phoebe,” he replied to my email.
I protested, in response, that my bird resembled not at all the black phoebes pictured in my ancient bird guides.
Mike advised me to invest in better bird guides, and he sent along a few web links to black phoebes, which proved beyond a doubt that my visitor was in fact one of those.
Because curiosity is what separates me from iPods, Zunes, and dogs, I replied with questions about black phoebes: Are they plentiful? Why have I never seen this bird in my garden before? Why did the bird follow me and my beagle on a walk one Saturday morning?
“Black phoebes are common in this county,” he said. “Where you live, they would be more common along creek beds or bodies of water.”
Notice Mike didn’t respond to my question about the black phoebe going on a walk with my beagle and I.
That made me wonder: Does Mike have a dog that plays pinochle? Could his dog beat me out of tricks even if I held a lot of trump?
Hmmm. Something more to sniff out. My brain is quivering to know.
To find out more than you ever wanted to know about Black Phoebes:
Photo by George Jameson


Scott said...

I have a dog that keeps me on my toes... but she's like the IPod, she learned or got everything she knows, from us lol I play euchre, but never pinochle. I too am a "what the heck kinda bird was that?" sort of fellow as well... Although I cannot say I've ever seen that handsome little black phoebe fellow before...

Lou said...

This was funny to me. I'll often wonder about something that I find out later is common knowledge to the rest of humanity. I'll resist that I didn't know by looking it up all over the internet. Finding out it is "common" just perplexes the heck out of me.

My favorite podcast of the minute if Grammar Girl. She really does make italics fun!

Prayer Girl said...

What a delightful post for a sunny, gorgeous Sunday.

I'm going to an Alcoholics Anonymous picnic today after my home group Al-Anon meeting. I know I will see my daughter who is in treatment there and who knows, maybe I'll see a Black Phoebe.


Susan said...

This left me grinning!
I love that the Phoebe followed you and your Beagle on a walk.
I love the mysteries of animals... and I'm starting to really appreciate those mysteries in life too.

Nessa said...

I have been know to make people wacky with my questions - mad, too.

Sunny Sunday #6 - Color Me Sunny

Brian Miller said...

we have no dog, just a cat...who i think has a tentatvie relationship with the deer and birds in our yard...she just watches them, thinking she is intimidating...they just laugh. to the best of my knowledge she cant play pinochle.

thanks for the smile. happy sunday!

Tall Kay said...

I laughed all the way through reading this! We are sooo much alike! When I have a question, I want an answer, an intelligent one from someone who knows...and I want proof you know what you're talking about! I once had a huge cat on my fence and bugged lots of people who should've known what it was. It finally took an officer from the US Wildlife Dept. to confirm it was a bobcat! I'm grateful it didn't follow Molly and I on a walk! Great story!

lakeviewer said...

Never met a bird I could identify. Moving here has changed me a bit, has made me more curious to know names and species. Love your Phoebe.

Woman in a Window said...

HA! You're a hoot! Teenagers are proof that curiosity is what separates humans from Ipods. HA!

Have you seen the new kid's movie UP? I think the dog humor might appeal to you. SQUIRREL! I watched it last night in the community room at our arena. Mostly kids. I was the only one snorthin' through my nose and I don't even like my dog.


big Jenn said...

I admit I'm a bird watcher but i don't think we have these. Now i have to look it up. See what you started!
My dog plays pitch but I prefer my husband as my partner 'cause he's a better player. She gets so mad. jeNN

Shadow said...

i love your curious mind. and how you've used it curl this marvellous experience....

Beth Niquette said...

A Black Phoebe? I've never see a bird such as there here in the Willamette Valley--what a darling.

Syd said...

Black phoebes are beautiful. I like how your mind works.