Chapter 21
Too Many Birds
The Tales of Texas

1a - The Mysterious Ski Rack
1b - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
1c - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
1d - Scorpions, Scorpio
2a - Diet Soda
2b - Riding into the Sunrise
3 - Modest Magazines
4 - Down to Houston
5a - What Does That Sign Say
5b - Just Follow Your Nose
5c - They Call It the Sunbelt
5d - The State Tree
6 - The New House
7a - Billboards
7b - Billboards Again
8 - Stereo Upgrade
9 - Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings to and from Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What's That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston through the small towns
37 - Shoe Story, an Austin Anecdote
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live music in Austin, but in theaters not in clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47a - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48a - Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House Is That-A-Way
57 - C.S.I. Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2

Too Many Birds

Too Many Birds

Boids. We got boids. Jesus, we got boids. Many, many boids. Just like the movie "The Birds." Trees *full* of birds at sunset. Remember the jungle gym filled with crows? That's what I mean by full. Hundreds swoop down and land in a single tree, the next flock chooses another tree. Hundreds at a time will change trees, a writhing gray cloud against the sunset sky rises from one tree as though it has suddenly caught fire, sweeps around two or three circles, takes seconds to decide somehow, settles into a another tree across the street. The top of the tree, every branch in the crown, sags under the weight of the four or five hundred birds that just settled down.

And the noise.

The grackle's voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
Ogden Nash, 1942

At a corner near our house, there is a parking lot surrounded by eight or ten trees favored by the grackles. The din is amazing. You cannot stand in the parking lot anywhere and have a normal conversation. Either you yell or you get into your car and close the windows. The total effect of the sound isn't unpleasant; it's just loader than hell. Grackles don't all sing the same tune, they have a number of different calls, and even individually their voices are nowhere near so bad as crows.

The first time we saw and heard these beasties was the weekend that Ms. T. and I came to look over Austin as a possible place to live. We stayed at the Hyatt just across the river from downtown. Nice location. The parking lot was filled with medium size live oak and other trees, and in the evening, the trees were about 30% solid bird. At the time, who knew that they were dangerous. The next morning we saw The Problem. A car near us was accidentally parked directly under a tree. The front top surface of the car was maybe a quarter inch deep in grackle poop. Could not see through the windshield at all. One wonders how the driver cleaned it off, and whether the hotel helped. And one wonders how the paint job fared. Did Avis have to replace the hood? Yuck.

A couple hundred yards (or meters or metres for you trendy Euroguys) on the other side of the street is the headquarters building of the newspaper. That building has large speakers along the roofline that emit an odd BZZzzz BZZzzz BZZzzz Tick Tick Tick sound all the time. I asked a local person what the noise was all about, expecting that it would be part of an alarm system or some such. No, the answer was, "Oh, that's 'anti-grackle' noise. Keeps 'em away." Apparently it is very effective. All the birds have migrated to the Hyatt where they can't hear their anti-noise.

Copyright (C) 2000,2001, 2002, Richard Ball Landau. All rights reserved.