We have been watching a cardinal here at the cabin.He is a very bright red and the very image of the Virginia state bird.And he is so full of himself!I first noticed him when I was looking through the bedroom window at the bird feeder in the Linden tree in the front yard.As bright red as he was, he all but forced the eye to focus on him.Then, later, I saw that he was fluttering up against the window of the Toyota.“What is he doing?”, I asked myself, so I stopped to watch him.Pretty soon it became evident that he had discovered that there was another male, also bright red, horning in on his territory, or so he thought, because he was looking into the side mirror of the car on the passenger side.He would perch on what little window sill there was, and from time to time would fly at the mirror, and then return to his precarious perch.When he got really excited, he would poop down the door.
When we went out to get in the car, he flew off into the woods.I checked the mirror, to find beak marks all over it, and what looked like a fine dust.I think that was from his flying into the mirror to attack his rival.He must have thought that his rival gave as good as he got when he hit the mirror!I had to wash the door off before we drove away.
When we came back, we parked in the same place, and before long, the cardinal returned and went through all the same motions as before:he perched on the window sill and observed himself in the mirror.His attacks were fewer, though, and his observing himself was more prevalent.But he continued to poop all over the door.He spent a long time there – several hours.
Then my wife went out with green plastic garbage sacks and duct tape and covered the window from the top to part way down the door, eliminating the window sill altogether, and covering the mirror and part of the windshield.This move was intensely frustrating for the cardinal.He tried to perch on the windowsill, but there wasn’t any, and he slid off down the door.He perched on the running board instead and surveyed the situation.Then he hopped back and forth on the running board, looking up at the window.Then he tried to fly up to the windowsill again.He seemed to try to hover in order to look into the mirror, before fluttering to where the windowsill should have been, only to slide off again.Then he flew over to the Linden tree and looked the situation over from there.Then he flew to the running board.He hopped back and forth, looking up at the now covered window and mirror.Then he tried to fly up to the windowsill, but there was no purchase there for him to perch.He kept this up for a long time.We left the plastic sacks taped to the car overnight until we left for home.I still had to wash off the running board!
The next week when we came out to the cabin, we parked in the back instead of out by the Linden tree.We saw the cardinal in the Linden tree, but for a whole day we didn’t see him out back where the car was.Then, the next day, he discovered where the car was!But instead of going to the passenger side, which would have been on the side away from us, he went to the driver’s side where we could see him.First he hopped up on the running board and looked around.Then he hopped from one end of the running board to the other and back again (leaving little evidences of his passage as he went).Finally he flew up to the window sill where he could see into the mirror.From time to time he would lose his footing on the window sill, it is so narrow, but he would just flutter his wings and get a better grip.Again, there was less attacking, and more admiring of himself in the mirror.Do you suppose he began to understand it was himself he was looking at?It sure seemed that way to me.He stayed there most of the day and only flew away when we went out to get into the car.Again, I had to wash the bird poo off the car before we left.
The next time we came to the cabin we drove my Honda, and we didn’t see the cardinal at all.We thought maybe because my car was black instead of gray, and a different shape, that he didn’t recognize it as the same kind of object.
This week we drove the Toyota again, and parked out by the Linden tree, but we haven’t seen him this week either. I keep thinking he has found a mate and is now so busy trying to feed his family that he has no time for admiring himself in the mirror. I sort of miss him – he was the most beautiful cardinal I have ever seen.
I am a 16-times grandfather who has worked most of my life as a government employee. Now I spend my spare time reading, drawing, and working hard on my farm in West Virginia. Since that house is heated solely by a wood-burning stove, I spend a lot of time caring for the 40 acres of woods.