Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 5:02 pm | Fair 73º


Captain’s Log: Fierce Aerial Acrobatics in Aviary Kingdom

Critter watching is fun and enlightening. It can also be downright impressive due to the skills and ferocity of wild critters.

They don’t have a welfare system, once they leave the nest, den or perhaps just the egg sack. They eat, fight and mate, or they die violently.

Critters have my deepest respect and this harsh reality is one reason why I've been a lifelong critter-watcher. Just one massive natural disaster could possibly return our species to that state until we can rebuild our advanced civilization once again.

One example of this critter behavior I think ranks right up there at the top is the way smaller, scrappy birds attack bigger birds of prey that appear to be a threat to the nest or protected space of the smaller birds.

Springtime and early summer are when this is most apparent as birds are making nests, siting on eggs and raising babies. Some birds or climbing mammal predators pose a threat, and birds are genetically programmed to protect what is theirs.

It is amazing to watch a 6-inch-long bird outmaneuver and harass a large owl, crow or hawk until the bigger bird leaves. We’ve all heard a disturbance and watched this wild scene play out.

One of the toughest of them is a scrub jay. Talk about a fierce and acrobatic bird.

I’m waiting for the military to build a fighter jet that is nimble, fast and fierce enough to paint as an imitation of a scrub jay. That might just scare the heck out of an opposing fighter pilot.

The fiercest episode of combative areal acrobatics I ever saw was when I was a kid, out hunting for a dove dinner with my BB gun. There was one lone tree in a wide field and scrub jays had a nest there.

A feral cat tried to climb the tree to raid the nest. Big mistake.

My attention was drawn by a loud commotion and rattling small branches of the tree as the cat launched itself out of the tree.

The feline ran frantically across the large field, screaming as both nesting scrub jays flew a perfect figure-8 pattern above the cat, which was juking and jiving like the best broken field running back who ever played football.

Come to think of it, that cat could have used a football helmet because as each of the two birds in turn got to the center of the figure 8, they delivered a perfect hard peck on that frantic cat’s head and the cat screamed in pain.

Those birds flew precise and perfect patterns at high speed. The skill and ferocity of that battle was intense and from there on out, I always gave that tree a wide berth on my hunting trips during the nesting time of year.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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