Nature comes to me for a change—take 2
In a September 30th post I wrote about the view from my computer room and offered up a picture I’d taken during a stare-down with an inquisitive squirrel on a branch of the Ashe juniper tree just outside my window. This past Sunday morning, as I sat at my computer once again, I looked out the window and noticed a couple of doves farther out along the branch that the squirrel had stared at me from. It was chilly for a November morning in Austin, with the temperature at about 48° and a brisk wind blowing. Because of the chill, the birds had their feathers puffed up and sat in sunny spots to warm themselves. I stood and moved closer to the window, and when I did I saw a third dove on a branch farther to the left, also basking in the sun, and in a much better position for me to photograph. Off came the camera’s macro lens, on went the telephoto, and off I went taking pictures, including the one above.
Not knowing much about birds, I consulted The Birds of Texas, by John Tveten, and found that his photograph of a white-winged dove resembled the birds outside my window. Looking at more pictures of that species on the Internet and comparing features, I gradually convinced myself that I really had photographed a white-winged dove. In spite of the scientific name Zenaida asiatica, the sources I’ve found say consistently that the bird is native from Central America north to the southernmost border regions of the United States. Some of those accounts add that the bird has been quickly expanding its range in Texas, so that over the last couple of decades it has become common first in San Antonio and then Austin. When this bird is puffed up to keep warm in its new northern range, it almost doesn’t look dove-like, at least not in my apparently limited conception of doves and pigeons.
Sources that mention the white-winged dove’s principal call are uniform in describing it as “Who cooks for you?” When I read that, I immediately remembered the many times I’ve lain in bed at night or in the morning and heard a bird call fitting that pattern. From having heard it, I knew that the phrase’s secondary stress falls at the beginning, on who, and its primary stress falls at the end, on you. And in answering the question I can even use the same number of syllables in almost the same rhythm, as she herself suggested: E-van-ge-LINE (who is indeed asiatica, even if the bird is not).
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman