Poor Li’l Birdies

Today I saw a “bevy” of starlings roosting in a tree. It is cold here, and their feathers were ludicrously puffed out in every direction – they looked almost spherical.

Now, I know that properly I’m supposed to despise and fear starlings – they’re European imports, not at all native to North America – they displace native songbirds and they don’t sing prettily at all. They can make you feel really weird and threatened when they swoop in by the thousand, carpeting treebranches with their bodies and filling ears with their eerie metallic screeching.

But all the same, if starlings may properly be likened to a cat they are certainly out of the bag – one imagines they must have been introduced to North America decades ago, and the ones now freezing in Massachusetts may well have as many generations of American ancestors as George Bush, even.

Again I defy nativism! I like starlings! It’s not their fault they sing so ugly. And they stick together admirably. And Old World sources write of them as possessing the power of speech.

I hope they make it through the winter all right.

14 Responses to “Poor Li’l Birdies”

  1. Erin Says:

    The U.S. spends something like $7 billion annually fighting the damage of introduced species. Zebra muscles (introduced by ballast water from ships) almost shut down the whole Great Lakes region and the Mississippi river, cloggin sewage systems and pushing out other species. And then there are those gopher-type things in Louisiana, the blue crabs in San Francisco, all those friggin’ water hyacinths choking small ponds….

    But the starlings really are peaceful, as I see them puffed up in gnarled trees on the very coldest days of the year. I hope they do okay, too.

  2. Desultor Says:

    Zebra mussels are in the Finger Lakes too. I chopped the shit out of my feet on some this summer in Keuka. Nasty little sharp fuckers. I think watershoes are for sissies but things are different now from when I was a boy, I may have to adapt.

    I was raised with an icy practical hatred of knapweed out West, and in college back East a lovely unwashed girl taught me proper contempt for purple loosestrife, that painted whore, pusher-out of cattails and other such virtuous natives.

    I do think some of the rhetoric of this sort of thing is interesting. Google searches for [wanted “purple loosestrife”], for instance, will come up with all sorts of Old-Westy posters. “We have reason to believe this criminal weed is hiding out in the surrounding area.” I draw no conclusions!

  3. snjoseph Says:

    Hey whiteys, I think it’s funny to see a couple Euro-crackers wax nostalgic for native life-forms. Too bad your enthusiasm for indigenous organisms didn’t come 400 years earlier. Snap!

    (Incidentally, I am kidding. I love all my pale-faced brothers and sisters. Plus I know for a fact that Erin’s people are not much longer off the boat than mine. Desultor kind of sounds like an Olde Worlde Mayflower type, but that may be mere Affectation.)

  4. Desultor Says:

    Isn’t the nostalgia interesting! The language too. To my mind, the decimation of native species, the gafflement of ecosystems, etc. etc. are all part and parcel of Progress. It’s intuitively obvious that there can be no true Peace, no Harmony, no Stasis while we are fucking around with shit. But of course we can’t do otherwise! It’s only human! And shit’ll fuck around with itself without our intervention anyway.

    The radical altering of native ecosystems, with millenia of evolution behind them, in a couple of decades, is scary shit — it tends away from the Stasis we are made to thrive in — it could very easily lead to the complete destruction of Humanity. Only a fool would deny that we are living on the edge. How entirely terrifying.

    But I can’t think anything very sensible about humanity as a whole — I’m just one person. God’ll rain fire and brimstone on us if he feels like it. The question is, can I find a nice steel parafuego to stand under, and fiddle while it falls? I hope I can! As Tom Lehrer said, “we’ll all go together when we go”. As Mos Def said, “Tomorrow may never come. For you and me, life is not promised.” As Marcus Aurelius said (I quote him here only in English, an act of cross-cultural imperialism and cooption which I would avoid if I could find a Latin text) “Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”

  5. llisa Says:

    are we really meant to thrive in Stasis? then whyfor our graspy hands and several kind of teeth? just give me a cataclysm and a place to stand…

  6. Desultor Says:

    Well llisa, if that cataclysm is of fire, you’ll be wanting a parafuego!

  7. Erin Says:

    Well Desultor, if that cataclysm is a computer virus, then and only then will that parafuego will come in handy!

    http://www.ala-internet.com/espanol/diccionario/p.html

  8. snjoseph Says:

    If the cataclysm is of fire, and you are in Australia, why not try a holocaust bumbershoot?

  9. Desultor Says:

    Erin, why you gotta break my balls? I thought “parafuego” was a nice way to express the concept of “device meant to keep fire from falling on your head” in a language unfortunate enough not to have one attested yet. And anyways it’s not like “parafuego” is that well-attested a usage anyway. 15 Google hits – fiddlesticks! A mi me parece que se dice “firewall” en español con mucho más frecuencia.

    snjoseph thank you for “bumbershoot”! OED seems to think it’s American (perhaps as well as Australian?) but I’ve never ever heard it.

  10. snjoseph Says:

    Huh, “bumbershoot” at least sounds like an Australianism. In fact, the SNJED says this is a composite of bumber, meaning “cucumber, bumblebee” and shoot, meaning “a surjection from {cucumber bumblebee} to {umbrella}.”

    Also, this is quite interesting, but “break my balls” (or the equivalent “bust my balls”) is a favorite phrase among Rhode Island police officers. It’s true!

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