Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Mocker's Hard Knock Life

The last few days I’ll call quiet and slow.  I don’t voice complaint; just the circumstances of my lifestyle that would bore if I shared.  But Mother Nature is readily sharing the best that December’s weather can offer on the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas. 
And where would you find me on these lovely days?  Outdoors, exploring, hiking and birding?  Mostly not; my birding and blogging have taken second fiddle to multiple days of working on my dulcimer. 
I’m not very good on my sweet mountain dulcimer.  I come to it readily equipped with almost zero musical talent.  But days of practice have created an upward step-function toward cross-picking melody notes, mandolin style; but much, much slower than any mandolin you'll ever hear.  I like to believe that the ladies of the 1800s, in their long dresses and ill-fitting shoes, would welcome a dance to my slow Irish jigs.  At least that is what I tell myself.  Regardless, I have fun with my dulcimer.  And that’s all that really matters.
But today, I finally pushed myself outdoors and drove to a local nature preserve with binoculars and camera in hand.  Mother Nature provided another stellar day for Gulf Coasties; and even with my slow start, a wonderfully birdy afternoon brought me joy. 
I watched warblers and vireos. I photographed a Brown Creeper and multiple woodpeckers.  A few good photos, for tomorrow’s post, but nothing I would claim as amazing.
But it was while I was in the field that I framed what I thought would be today’s blog post, with a title:  “When a Mocker Poses.”  For in fact, the only bird that flew in close, and stayed, was a Mocking Bird. 
Few birders photograph mockers.  But this Mocker’s proximity, and frozen posture, begged the camera to give it attention.  And so I did.  In the field, this Mocker looked normal and lovely.  I was confident I’d simply post a story about a quiet day of birding and a Mocker that posed for the camera.
But when I got home, and downloaded and reviewed today’s images, I realized this was no normal Mocker.  This lovely specimen revealed the broken bill and abnormal toes of a hard knock life.
I don’t know how long this mocker will fly this world.  The broken bill will make gleaning its daily bread more challenging, if not soon impossible.  Only this Mocker knows if the broken bill is from a warring battle, or a bad choice of food, or unforeseen circumstance, or brittle genetics.  Only this Mocker knows the pain of her hard knock life.
And when I developed the photo, I almost missed the abnormal growth on her toe.  Would an ornithologist recognize a cancerous growth or other genetic dysfunction, possibly linked to a brittle bill?  I do not know.  But I do know that her toe is significantly off-nominal.
And so my light-hearted post of “When a Mocker Poses” turned into a “Hard Knock Life” photograph with unknown story.  And why do I share it?
Because this beautiful mocker is like so many humans; scarred from war; damaged from accident; victim of circumstance; or challenged by the worst throw of the dice that genetics can offer.  And we should never look away.
But mostly, this photo captures a friendly Mocker.  A Mocker that is both beautiful and alive, on this lovely day.


  1. Whatever its reason, you captured a hard knock mocker posing proudly with a gleam in its eye. RC

  2. I hope he surprises us with longevity and health!


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