Musings and lessons from the forest

October 17, 2010 at 12:22 PM

On Starlings and Darlings

If you have never welcomed the morning or bid farewell to the daylight from a tree stand perched under the canopy of a hardwood forest, I highly recommend it.  The first and last rays of sunlight filtering through the fall leaves make a sight to behold.

Monday morning, I climbed into a tree stand in a McLean County, Illinois, park.  My stated objective: harvest a whitetail doe as part of a doe hunt in Comlara Park.  As often happens in the glory of nature, stated objectives sometimes take a back seat to the surprises Mother Nature has in store for those lucky enough to be in attendance.  On this particular day, I had 9 doe make their way into bow range — quite a day after having seen only a handful of deer in my several days afield this early October.  But even more impressive was the mid-morning flock of starlings. 

Without warning starlings began flying directly over the forest canopy.  Thousands of starlings; singing out in a cacophonous, yet somehow beautiful shrill chorus.  Gazing skyward, the birds were reminiscent of a cathedral ceiling of shiny jet black birds with iridescent blue necks.  I was unsure what was more impressive the sheer number of birds or the volume of their song.

To understand the chatter which emanates from a starling, it is important to know a starling is related to the myna bird.  Mynas are capable of remarkable vocalizations, and can even be trained to imitate human speech.

After what seemed like an eternity, the massive flock of birds began to land in the tree tops and on the forest floor.  I imagine they were searching for insects.  The debris began to rain down from the tree tops in the form of twigs, acorns, and the like.  Starlings, it seems, while graceful in flight are anything but when it comes to landings.  Small though they are, they land on branches with a gusto befitting a squirrel or a tree monkey.  The particulate matter raining down was the percussion accompanying their cackling song. 

As deer rely greatly upon their hearing and noses to identify danger they were certainly not going to venture out amidst this din.  Seeing no sign of the forest returning to normalcy anytime soon, I counted myself fortunate to have experienced this display and climbed out of the tree for some lunch.

I returned after noon to arrow a doe from 20 yards.  She was an absolutely beautiful specimen with a perfect coat and nary a blemish or tick.  This lovely animal would be a perfect present for my daughter who turned 9 years old a couple of days ago.  You see, she told me she wanted some doe for her birthday.  Unfortunately, it seems she really wanted some “dough” for her birthday.  Needless to say, she was not particularly happy about the half butchered carcass she saw hanging in the garage when she arrived home. 

After the tears and hysteria subsided a bit, I pulled myself together and stopped sobbing long enough to reflect.  Two thoughts came to mind:

I seem to have seriously underestimated the value of effective communication in a father-daughter relationship;
They should change the words to that darn song.  Instead of “doe a deer, a female deer” it should say “dough, a pile of bills and coins.”

Fortunately, I have learned a valuable lesson about effective communication.  As I laid my daughter down to sleep last night, she told me she expects big bucks for Christmas.  After the birthday disappointment, I feel obliged to hook her up for Christmas—even if I have to hunt every day for the next three months to deliver her wish. 

David Chikahisa