Mr. Grumpy Gets His Bath

Mr. Grumpy

If his verse is any indication, Ogden Nash met his own grumpy grackle, and wasn’t particularly impressed:

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.

Despite Nash’s characterization, the grackle I came to know as Mr. Grumpy didn’t seem inclined toward bullying or attacks. Though loud, impertinent, and insistent, he wasn’t at all aggressive. He only wanted to be noticed: preferably by a female of his own species. That hunger for attention and approval appeared to lie near the heart of his aggravation. 

Like any fellow, he’d only wanted to spiff up a bit before heading out to impress the girls. With his choice of attire limited by nature, he’d thought a nice bath would do the trick. Unfortunately, as he pointed out with a lift of his head and a point of his beak, his favorite bathing pool had been taken over by this fellow.

Alligator mississippiensis

It’s a wise bird who knows his limits, and the Grumpster wasn’t about to engage in a fight with a creature who could flatten him as easily as he’d flattened the surrounding grass. But when I suggested a Plan B — finding another bathing pool — his response was swift, and wholly negative.

From his point of view, finding another pool would be impossible. Wading birds weren’t welcoming. Dabblers were jealous of their space. Cute and apparently benign, grebes diving for shoots and leaves were rumored to bite the feet of birds they considered intruders.

Deep waters in the middle of the slough were inaccessible to a grackle, and shallower water, replete with grasses, sedges, and reeds, had been overrun by moorhens and coots. Every suggestion I offered met with a more-or-less reasonable objection from an increasingly morose grackle.

“I enjoy living here,” he said.”But sometimes I feel like I don’t belong.” “We all feel like that from time to time,” I said. “but brooding won’t solve the problem. Maybe you need someone to run interference for you — someone able to run off a few birds so you can at least get a bath.”

The suggestion seemed to perk him up. “But who’d be willing to do that?” Scanning the water, I spotted an exchange taking place on the other side of the slough. “What about that old coot over on the north bank? The one giving the business to the youngster who was making a move on his territory? Why don’t you fly over and talk to him? He might be willing to help you out.”

The youngster, at attention

“Oh,” he said. “I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t want to impose, and besides — he looks as grumpy as I am.” “Well,” I said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fly over and talk to him: unless, of course, you’d rather deal with the ‘gator.” Sighing, the grackle fluffed up his feathers. “Stay here,” he said. “I’ll give it a try, and see what he suggests.”

Before long, Mr. Grumpy was back. “Well?” I said. The bird gave me what I took to be a grackle-grin. “Just wait. The Old Coot was in the mood to raise a ruckus, and I gave him the perfect excuse.”

Before long, the pattering and whirring that signals the ridiculous half-flight, half-run of a coot crossing the water rippled toward us. Moving fast, the Old Coot appeared, in full pursuit of something. Precisely what, we couldn’t tell.

Before long, the tell-tale splashes and concavities of another coot’s passage appeared beyond the reeds. The chase was on, and the Old Coot clearly was gaining ground.

As the pair rounded a clump of bulrushes, we realized the old guy was putting on quite a performance; an entire group of birds was attempting to flee. In true coot fashion, neither pursuer nor pursued seemed able to lift from the suface of the water, and so they ran, in every direction, throwing up ill-formed, messy wakes.

In the end, the last of the group made a final dash toward the safety of some reeds, and the fun was over.

Fairly beaming with satisfaction, the Old Coot swam back to the bank to rearrange his feathers, and the no-longer-grumpy grackle grinned. “That was a pretty good idea you had,” he said.

I grinned right back. “It worked out nicely, didn’t it? There’s a fine, empty spot of slough now for you to take your bath. You’d better get at it, before the coots come back.” “I will,” he said. “Hang around, and I’ll do a fly-by after my bath, so you can see how handsome I am.”

Settling down into the water, the grackle looked first in one direction, and then the other, as if unable to believe his good luck.

Once assured of safety and solitude, he began to bathe. The process created as much splashy havoc as the coots produced during their chase, but there was no one to object.

After five or ten minutes of what seemed to be pure enjoyment, he flattened his tail and swished it around: roiling the water as if with a giant paddle.

Satisfied at last, he stood, shook himself off, and took to the air, trailing droplets of water as he flew. Circling over the slough, iridescent feathers gleaming and glinting in the light, he banked over the old coot before coming to rest on a clump of nearby sedges.

“Well,” he said, “what do you think?” There was no question what I thought. “I think you’re the most handsome grackle in all the slough, that’s what I think. Not only that, it’s getting late on a Saturday afternoon. I think you ought to get flying, and find yourself a date.”

“I believe I will,” he said. Then, just before lifting off, he fixed me with a look, grinned one more time and said, “Maybe now that I have these pretty, clean feathers, I can stop being so grumpy.”


Comments always are welcome.
The first part of this tale, which tells a bit about the life of the slough in general,  can be found here.


122 thoughts on “Mr. Grumpy Gets His Bath

  1. I hate grackles so I had a hard time reading this with an open mind and a generous heart like you have towards these creatures. Here in the north 3-4 of them can empty out a bird feeder in a couple of hours. Still, at least now I know I have something in common with Ogden Nash, how cool is that!

    1. Hi Jean, I have an anti-squirrel feeder with adjustable counter-balanced perch from Damn Yankees and it works a charm to keep anyone over a certain weight at bay… It’s been set [for over fifteen years now: ] to exclude all of those Pushy Types (like Blue Jays, Grackles and most definitely SQUIRRELS!; ) while Cardinals and everyone smaller can come and go at will (but even they take their turn, one at a time; )

        1. Oh, don’t get me wrong; there’s still lots of ground fall for everybody! They still THINK they’re bullying the smaller birds away… They just can’t take over the actual SOURCE of the food and therefore leave much more quickly (to go clean out someone else’s unrestricted feeder.
          It also allows the native Red Squirrels access to our Black Oil Seed – with some hard work and a lot of ingenuity – but we are surrounded by Red Pines and Spruce that are a LOT less work.

            1. Omg, you’ve gotta love photoshop; )
              But you are right about the ground feeders though; I’ve got loads of Mourning Doves Slate Juncos and various Sparrows that love to scratch underneath the feeder: )

    2. I stop filling the feeders for a couple of weeks as they pass through Iowa. Otherwise, they eat everything. They must be hungry from their flight up from the south.

    3. For years I associated Ogden Nash with the Pelican poem. Then, I found out he didn’t even write it. That honor went to Dixon Lanier Merritt. But Nash certainly penned a good number of wonderful poems — some light and satirical, others satirical and not so light. He’s good company to keep.

      I understand your feeling about the grackles. I’ve mentioned before my impatience with the pigeons around here. The suggestions offered below are good. I’ve kept the pigeons somewhat at bay by offering food that appeals to other birds but that they can’t eat, such as whole pecans for the bluejays. The problem with grackels is that they seem to eat everything.

    1. Thanks, Deb. It’s really quite fun to be able to use my own photos in posts. In the end, I’m still discarding about 90% of what I bring home, partly because I’m becoming more critical. But it still leaves me photos to share while I continue to learn and increase my “keeper” percentage. I’m glad you enjoyed this words-and-images combo.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jim. You’re not alone in seeing this as the basis for a children’s book. A friend called about five minutes after I posted last night, and said the same thing. The thought never had crossed my mind, but it’s interesting to ponder.

  2. Mr. Grumpy turned out to be quite fetching, didn’t he? I have a little trouble finding Old Coot to be pleasing, however. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that anyone is a “pleasing old Coot.” Poor thing needs another name. Delightful story.

    1. Truth to tell, Oneta, I’m rather fond of old coots, and I’ve known a few. As a matter of fact, I’ve worked for a couple. Once I learned to give as well as I was getting, we got along famously. Of course, I have a fondness for curmudgeons, too, so there’s that.

      The word I’ve seen most often paired with the phrase “old coot” is “cantankerous.” I suspect that, like beauty, cantankerous is in the eye of the beholder. People have coined the word “catitude” to describe the aloofness, superciliousness, and arrogance of the cat. Maybe the coots should start promoting “cootitude” as a positive value.

    1. I like those too, Sheryl. When I saw what he was up to, I was glad I’d spent some time here at home, photographing mallards in the marina and sparrows at my bird bath.

      Birds are birds, and water is water, and the same techniques that I began learning on my balcony transferred pretty well to the slough. In that sense, it’s just like cooking. Once you understand the techniques, you can apply them in a variety of settings.

    1. Your verse is delightful. I must say, I was fairly well delighted myself when I found the grackle-on-the-wing tucked into the mess of photos I brought home that day. (And yes, I am using “mess” in every sense of the word.) Little by little, the various pieces of the photographic puzzle are beginning to fit together. Even when the execution isn’t perfect, I’m often pleased.

      Another great resource I’ve found is Mia McPherson’s bird blog, called “On the Wing.” She posts daily, with photos like this, and includes shooting information beneath each photo. Studying those photos has helped to make sense of the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and EV, and made it easier to make adjustments when I’m out and about.

      Finally being able to find all the buttons when I want them doesn’t hurt, either.

  3. Thanks for a delightful yarn, Linda. You made quite a splash with my evening. I also like Grackles, grumpy or not. The first time I heard their name, I was taken in. And those marvelous tails. Sadly, we don’t have them where I live. I am looking forward to my share in Texas, however.

    1. They’re everywhere now, Curt, and we’re entering the mating season. Great-tailed or boat-tailed, the boys are out and about, making quite a spectacle of themselves with their courting behavior. If they’re in the neighborhood, everyone knows it.

      A youngster once informed me that “chickens cluck, geese honk, and grackles yell.” That’s pretty much it — but I still like them.

      1. Not much is more fun than watching male birds go about their courtship, Linda. At our place it’s the turkeys. Boy do they strut. I gobble at them and their necks shoot out and they gobble back at me. Hilarious. This spring they discovered the gobblers that live in the shiny bumpers on our truck. Out pop their feathers. Then they start pecking at the competition, which of course pecks right back. The hang around forever, or so it seems. The more aggressive of the large toms fly into the bed of the truck looking for the turkeys that live in the bumpers. I can amuse myself for hours watching their antics. –Curt

  4. Although all of your shots of the coots and the grackle are compelling, I favor two: the first (your grackle’s grip is superb) and the two coots, young and old. That erect carriage of the wide-eyed youngster is worth the whole story. The beads of water during bath time invited we viewers a detailed look.

    1. Despite looking at that photo of the two coots at least a hundred times, I still laugh. Everyone’s had that experience, whether the dressing-down has come from a drill sergeant, a school teacher or principle, a boss, or a parent.

      Those grackle feet intrigued me, too. They have such a metallic sheen. Perhaps it wasn’t a natural grackle at all, but a bionic bird, or a feathered drone, sent to keep an eye on goings-on at the slough. To paraphrase that saying from olden times: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of birds? The Grackle knows!

  5. This is perfectly wonderful – a fine antidote to my much-too-early morning. I like grackles. They used to visit my bird feeders when I lived in Detroit. Their feathers showed to best effect in the late afternoon sun. Rowdy bunch. We got along fine. I have no use at all for alligators, but would love to encounter a feathered old coot. The ones I meet in the Township tend to be quite bald. We get along fine too. OK, another cup of coffee and I might just as well stay up and see what happens.

    1. You were up early: dare I say, with the birds? Actually, you may have beaten the birds.

      I thought you must have coots up there, since I know they summer in Minnesota. I found they summer in Michigan as well, but it seems they’re more likely to be found around ponds and marshes than at the lakes.

      I’m sort of with you on the alligators. I find them a combination of alarming and interesting. Did you know that the mamas will let their babies nap on their backs? They do. Who knows? Maybe that was their daddy that ran the grackle off from his pool.

      1. Maybe the migrating coots hang out in the swamp with the coyotes. Or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. I’m just glad we don’t have alligators, except for the stuffed one that hangs from the ceiling at Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids.

  6. Oh Linda, I love that grackle poem and of course so perfect for the attitude of your image! I love that image! Sometimes I look for poems to go with my pictures and I can’t believe I never encountered that one to my memory before. Great gator picture too. The rookery I visit when I can has a lot of mashed down grasses like that and I know most likely a gator went that way!

    1. I thought you’d enjoy the alligator, Judy. I have a few of a different one that are — compelling, shall we say? Any photo taken of a gator from a distance of about ten feet is going to be compelling, I suppose. I haven’t really looked through all the alligator photos carefully, to choose the best, but I do love this one. I’m hoping I have a version that’s a little clearer, but if not, this will do. I told a friend it was my National Geographic moment.

      There are a good many exposed mud flats at Brazoria, probably because of the way they manage the land: flooding and draining at different times. I took a photo of some prints that I couldn’t quite identify among the raccoon, coyote, and so on. When I showed them to a volunteer, she just laughed and said, “Alligator.” I can’t imagine my heart rate if I came across one on a trail, but of course they’re not any more interested in a confrontation than we are.

      I can’t manage it this week, but with luck, next week I’m off for a day to a rookery I discovered across the bay — about an hour and a half away. Now that I’m exploring birders’ sites, I see it has quite a reputation. Who knows what I’ll find there?

  7. This is such a heart-warming story! My hat’s off to you for making sure Mr. Grumpy got his bath. I also love the photographs. Perhaps that grackle will soon return with a mate and say, “Thank-you!” Please keep us updated!

    1. Who wouldn’t want to help out such a handsome bird? And I’m glad you liked the photos. Whether I’ll learn anything about the grackle’s subsequent life is hard to say, but if I do, I’ll surely report it here!

  8. Where can I find someone to “run interference” for me? I could use that on a near daily basis.

    This is an example of how bird watching isn’t always what’s cute and pretty. The crash of cultures and civilizations, petty jealousy, turf wars, and prejudices. But much more attractive than the human equivalent.

    I hope there are grackles, crows and coots in Heaven. Oh wait. This IS Heaven.

    Fun post!

    1. I’m sure territorial squabbles take place in every species, but the coots are especially fun to watch: partly because they’re so noisy and visible.

      The mallards may hold the record for long-term tussles, though. They’re given to locking bills and engaging in an avian version of elbow wrestling that can go on for quite some time. Generally, there’s no damage done, although I occasionally see a male with a piece of bill missing. I always wonder if he lost it in a competition.

      You’re right that all of the birds deserve consideration. The cardinals and goldfinches are beautiful, but even the cowbirds and sparrows have enjoyment to offer. It’s like walking the prairies just now. There are leftover seed heads from last season that are fully as beautiful as this year’s new blooms. “Pretty” isn’t the only measure of value.

    1. I hope so, too, WOL. He certainly will have plenty of opportunity. The number of grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and cowbirds around the refuge has been astonishing. I’d hoped for a red-winged blackbird photo, but they hide in the reeds, and are almost impossible to see, let alone photograph.

  9. Wonderful tale, Linda. You know, it would be perfect for a children’s book if you were so inclined.

    Mr. Grumpy looks so much more handsome with his feathers washed — and I imagine he feels better, too. Less itchy. Kind of you to suggest he work with the Old Coot to find a watering hole. At this time of year, all the birds are finding mates, setting up housekeeping, and getting ready to welcome new family members — Mr. Grumpy will soon have a lot on his plate, and he can ill afford to remain grumpy!!

    1. It’s a fact: the bird world is especially active right now. There are times, especially in the late fall, when it’s unusual to hear any sort of bird call. But this is the season for them to chatter and sing, and it’s delightful.

      The baby ducks are appearing now, so the constant conversation between mothers and babies is a part of life, too. There’s always one duckling that’s determined to go its own way, leading to frantic peeping and calling until the family’s back together.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the little story. It was a fun one to write.

  10. I agree… I love the idea of a children’s story! What sweet pics and a lovely tale. I just adore how you spin a wonderful story around the beautiful environs and the amazing critters (those same creatures that some would call commonplace, gasp!).

    1. The same folks who talk about commonplace creatures sometimes mention so-called “ordinary days.” As far as I’m concerned, neither exists. There’s so much wonder, all around us. I’d far rather binge-watch the world than Netflix.

      Thanks for your kind words — I’m glad you enjoyed the tale. As for a children’s story: it’s a little ironic. I’ve had the title and the main character’s name for a children’s story in my files for a few years, but nothing ever has come of it. Now, quite by accident, I seem to have produced one — or at least the beginnings. We just never know where the path will lead, do we?

  11. Linda, this post is so cute. I am really liking the bird and nature stories. The grackles are indeed a nuisance if there is an over population of them. These birds are in just about every corner of my city. For some strange reason I’ve never been bothered by nary a grackle. I live in a semi-wooded area and my yard is filled with trees. But the squirrels more than make up for the lack of grackles. I hear many people say crackle instead of grackle.

    1. In the spirit of Ogden Nash, and your comment:

      A silly birdie is the grackle;
      He doesn’t sing ~ he only crackles.
      A voice coach might improve his tune ~
      let’s hope it happens before June.

      The only trees where I’ve seen grackles congregate are urban live oaks. My impression is that they prefer more open areas, which helps to explain why they so often show up in parking lots and prairies. It’s the open space that’s the similarity. On the other hand, they commonly nest in palm trees around here. That’s something else that surprised me — but nature’s always full of surprises.

      Yesterday, I came across dozens of fuzzy black caterpillars feeding on wetland plants. No one knew what they were, and I haven’t taken the time to look them up yet, but they surely were enthusiastic eaters. Some people were afraid they were asps, but I knew for certain they weren’t those little devils. After my encounter with them, I’m quite clear on what they look like.

      1. Neither do I have any idea what the kind of caterpillar the fuzzy black ones are named.
        I had a run in with asps about 17 years ago. It was a nightmare from hell. My daughter took me to one of those day clinics and I told the MD that I had been stung by several asps. He looked at me as if I were a nut case and said, “an asp is a snake and we don’t have those here.” I replied, “no we have asps and it is a small fuzzy caterpillar.” He did not admit his ignorance and prescribed Tramadol. After we returned home the pain was becoming unbearable. I was crying and wringing my hands and walking the floor. Lisa then drove me to Providence ER and the MD there knew what I was talking about. He said that some people are very allergic to the stings. My BP was 200/100. I was given Demerol and Benadryl IM. I had to remain in ER until my BP returned to normal.

        I learned my lesson to never go into the garden and cut flowers and carry them on bare arms. I had about 4-5 stings. I have never forgotten that incident. The pain is embedded in my brain. :-)

        1. I understand all too well what you’re talking about. I couldn’t believe that such a cute, fuzzy little thing could inflict such pain just by being brushed against. When I finally figured out all that cute fur also was a collection of venom-filled hypodermic needles — well, it didn’t help much. The pain was gone after a week, but the mark it left took weeks more to disappear. Multiple stings would be terrible.

  12. I love the comment section of your posts almost as much as the posts themselves. From this one I’ve learned there is a feeder I can get to discourage Grackles from eating me out of house and home. Maybe then I’ll be able to see the beauty others see in this birds. You’re a great photographer, by the way. You make us look at the details we often don’t take the time to see.

    1. The comments add so much, don’t they? I’ve always thought of the post itself as a starting point. The responses are part of what makes a blog a different sort of critter than, say a magazine article. I’ve learned so much from commenters, and the diversity of opinion is great.

      One reason I started taking photography a little more seriously is pure curiosity. There are so many things happening out there in the world that we just can’t see with our eyes, and photos help to reveal them. One example that comes to mind is that second coot photo. I’ve watched a lot of coots, but never had seen the “dimples” in the water that a full-out flight leaves. Every time I upload photos, I have at least one, “Well, look at that!” experience.

    1. Thanks, Ellen. There was some luck involved, believe me — not only being in the right place at the right time, but also having remembered to checked the camera settings. I’m still at the point where remembering to change settings is as much luck as it is second nature.

    1. When I was looking at the grackle photos, Nia, I was thinking about your photos of the magpies. Birds are such fun to photograph, aren’t they? I’m glad you liked the grackles.

  13. Great story. You made that fellow very real.
    I heard on NPR this week that the Aztecs actually bred grackles for their beautiful, brilliantly flashing feathers, which the Aztecs used as part of their regalia.

    1. I didn’t know that about the Aztecs, Myra. Now that you mention it, I do remember looking at some illustrations from the Codices and noting the use of feathers. I’ll go back and take another look.

      In a related note, yesterday afternoon I saw an eagle in a tree along FM 521 — with a snake dangling from its beak. It’s the first time I’ve seen a real-life representation of the Aztec/Mexican symbol.

      Thanks for the kind words. Learning how to present facts imaginatively is a good skill for a historian, too — as your writing clearly shows.

  14. What a great story! I think that grackles are so beautiful – their iridescent feathers are so lovely in the sun. I keep wanting to give them a better name – like Rainbow Blackbird or some such :)

    1. That’s a wonderful idea, Dana. “Blackbird” doesn’t sound nearly so perjorative as “grackle.” After all, who doesn’t love a red-winged blackbird? Their feathers are beautiful, and when they start their courting behavior, spreading those tails and strutting around, they’re downright impressive.

  15. I agree that you should run this by some child’s book editor. Or self-publish even. But you already know I think very highly of your wordsmithing.

    How nice that your friendly grackle gave you a fly by showing off his iridescence. We have grackle visitors and I have not noticed aggression in them either. Their large size seems to intimidate the smaller birds as they fly in, but so too with mourning doves. Blue Jays, on the other had, are aggressive. Like Jim says, grackles do drain the feeders very quickly.

    1. On the aggressiveness scale, bluejays, mockingbirds, and pigeons are right up there, although the pigeons do seem to squabble among themselves more than they fuss at other birds. It seems their size alone is enough to keep the others at bay.

      Someone new to bird feeding asked me once how much seed the birds would eat every day. I told her my experience was that they’ll eat however much is around. One pound? Good. Five pounds? Great. A dump truck full? It’s a grackle flock’s dream!

      Thanks for the supportive words. I’m glad you enjoyed the little tale.

      1. Ours gets emptied every day. The squirrels clean the ground and the birds, mostly, the feeders. I thought we had conquered the squirrel problem. I mount the feeder pole inside two lengths of 8″ stove pipe with a dome over that and for the last 5 or so years the feeders have been squirrel proof. But we have one squirrel who must be related to Javier Sotomayor and easily leaps onto the dome.

        1. I’d never heard of Sotomayor, but the relevance is clear. And pretty funny, now that I think about it. Can you imagine the training regimen those squirrels must go through?

  16. I had never even HEARD of a grackle until I read this charming, funny tale, Linda! I’ve checked up on it and it’s not that I’ve been monumentally unobservant all my adult life. We just don’t have them in Scotland, it would appear – I’ve just looked it up to check. Thanks for the ornithological introduction!

    1. It’s always interesting to come across differences between your place in the world and mine. I still remember how surprised I was to learn your robins and our robins aren’t the same bird.

      I used to dismiss scientific names, but they’re clearly useful for accurate identification. My grandmother used “rain ravens” as a weather predictor, but were they ravens? or hawks? or vultures? And what about that pie? Exactly which blackbirds were baked into it? We know there were four-and-twenty, but the species? Who knows? From what you say, they probably weren’t grackles.

  17. Great story and photographs. I just love the image of the grackle in flight. I think a bit more time spent watching birds fly might well reframe the way we hear them sing, which might give us a different perspective on trees, and so a fresh appreciation for the smell of the soil,, and that could well lead to who knows what!

    1. You’re starting to sound like John Muir, Allen. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. One of my favorite quotations is his: ““When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

      I did think about your book club, and the issue of how we see the world, this past weekend. Imagine this little flower. One petal was about an inch and a half long. Now, imagine discovering this even smaller guy perched on the edge of one of those petals, cleaning his antennae. When I think about the number of creatures surrounding us, going about their lives entirely unnoticed, it’s wholly astonishing.

      1. Those are the most remarkable photographs! Thanks, and thanks for the comparison with John Muir. Thankfully, though, I don’t have the responsibility that most certainly must attend such winsome locks!

    1. Thanks, Andy. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, and appreciate the kind words about the photos. I wouldn’t call them superb, but I would call them very good. Apart from everything else, I was happy for the confirmation that buying the telephoto lens was the right move. I thought it was, but to get these photos on only the third time out with it made me very happy.

  18. A wonderfully uplifting tale! I don’t think I have seen a grackle at our lake, but we have coots aplenty. I have always been alone in admiring their antics. Their feet are delightful and their eggs beautiful. What more can we ask?

    1. I didn’t have a clue what a coot’s egg might look like. Now I do, thanks to your mention — and I have a better sense of why I might be hearing so much muttering coming from deep in the reeds at the slough. There very well could be some nest-building going on.

      Their feet are hilarious. I was glad I could capture a bit of them in the photos. In the last coot photo, don’t you think the one that’s running away looks a bit like a dragon?

    1. Stick “once upon a time” at the beginning, to go along with “happily ever after,” and it’s the perfect story.

      I always liked bath time when I was a kid, but a friend has a grandson who’s utterly opposed. She said she might try convincing him to imitate the grackle. I said, be prepared to clean up a lot of water outside the tub.

    1. Now you know why I was reading your post about dialog so carefully, Janet. I’ve not done much dialog writing, so I was mightily interested.

      Isn’t it fun to read something and laugh? I tagged the post with “humor” because I found it pretty amusing, myself. That you found a smile in it, too, is just great. Now, get out there and find a grackle. Say, “hello.” See what happens.

  19. At last, a bird after my own heart! “I enjoy living here,” he said.”But sometimes I feel like I don’t belong.”

    It’s interesting what happens when we spread our wings, look around, and are flexible to try something new.

    Beautiful lesson, beautiful photographs.

    1. And there you are, picking up on what I thought was one of the most humanizing lines of the piece. And yet, the grackle belonged more surely than he realized. Otherwise, that coot wouldn’t have been quite so eager to help out.

      It just now strikes me that the grackle’s story itself is a confirmation of your point about trying new things. Only once, that I can remember, have I written anything like this. It was rather fun to branch out. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  20. Great story. Universal characters and theme. Outstanding – totally amaaaazing- images – so professional (Texas Highways/TX Parks and Wildlife mags, should be knocking on your door.)

    This is one of the best times of the year here. (and we have 4 different types of lizards/cameleons/anoles strutting about the landscape right now…from archaic miniature dinos to sleek ruby throated emerald greens) Wonder is out there.
    And yes, this should be published in book form.

    1. To use a phrase no doubt familiar to you — fiddlesticks, Phil! I’m pleased with these photos, to be sure. But I have a realistic view of what I’m producing now, photographically speaking, and could point out a small clutch of reasons these aren’t close to being print magazine quality. No matter — knowing where they don’t measure up is a step on the path to producing what would measure up. But I’m glad you like them, and I’m glad you enjoyed them, too.

      Speaking of photography: there was a professional photo shoot going on yesterday afternoon at Lakewood, and I happened to be working in close proximity. It was fascinating to watch. There were slinky models, a fancy boat, a fancy car, and a good bit of cleavage involved, not to mention photographer’s assistants, and gizmos I’ve never seen used, like reflective circles made of “whatever” that apparently were meant to focus additional light. It wasn’t wedding photography, and I don’t think it was product placement. It could have been for Keels and Wheels publicity.

      I’ve seen more baby lizards this year than ever before. The tiny ones are only a couple of inches long, and cute as the dickens. I’ve heard there’s a lizard war going on, with the Cuban/Floridian forces trying to drive out the anoles. We’ll see how it goes.

      1. MFAH is having a swanky bash there shortly – got the notice yesterday. Would have loved to seen that shoot – and taken some pix of them taking pix….now that’s a Renaissance mirror technique, yes?
        Thrilled about all the lizard kings…we’ll have plenty of mosquitoes for munching.

  21. Wonderful images to accompany your telling of one Grumpster’s tale. Though I must say, his glimmering feathers were beautiful to begin with. I was amazed how long his bath lasted and how comfortable he seemed splashing about.

    1. I do enjoy watching birds bathe. It’s always fun, but you’re right that he spent what seemed an usual amount of time at it. When the mockingbirds or sparrows stop by at the water dish outside my window, it’s usually for a quick dip: although at times they’ll linger.

      About two years ago, I watched sparrows line up on the railing, and actually take turns. One would bathe, then fly away, and the next would jump into the water. If it ever happens again, I’ll be ready to at least try to capture the event.

    1. You must have quite a show now, with your new view into the pasture. Add the birds to the horses and squirrels, and I can imagine a three-ring circus, for sure.

      I’m glad the Grumpster gave you a laugh. I think we all could use a few, at this point.

    1. Mary, I’m glad you found it so. I went to the wildlife refuge for the flowers, but I stayed for the birds: at least, in this instance. It was great fun to share some of it in story form.

  22. This post sounded like a children’s story, and pictures to go along with it! I really like Grackles even though I don’t see a lot. I love how if the sun is shining down on their tar black feathers that you can see a beautiful hue of blue.

    1. Little stories like this are so much fun. There’s a reason I still remember “The Pokey Little Puppy” after all these years — the illustrations and the words worked together to make it memorable for me. I think that same kind of combination worked here.

      You’re right about the grackles’ feathers. The only bird I’ve found that’s more iridescent is the glossy ibis. Isn’t he pretty?

  23. How charming, I absolutely loved this, you have a gift for telling a good story, and finding them. The pics were a pleasure too. I enjoyed getting to know your grackle, I’m sure he’s iridescent to other

    1. Given all the entertainment and enjoyment you’ve offered through Special Pige, your own animals, and the whole crew at the rescue, it’s the least I could do. I’m glad you enjoyed the little tale — isn’t it interesting how simply telling a tale about one creature makes it special?

      He certainly was a handsome bird, and I assume by this time he’s found himself a mate and is busy looking for a house. As for iridescence: it occurred to me today that another bird many people here don’t like is beautifully shimmery — the starling. They have a positively musical burble — I like listening to them as I work.

      1. Why thank you for your kind comments on my warblings!
        Yes, plucking a critter from the flock does make it special, each of them is though. One thing I have learnt at the rescue is that each animal is individual, with a unique personality….although they do have their species/traits in common. Starlings….gosh, I love those birds! They are the most incredible mimics!!! xxx

  24. I thoroughly enjoyed your little bird tale (with a alligator thrown for good measure). Even with a morale at the end of it. And the series of photos are just as captivating, telling the whole story in pictures. A nice one, Linda.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Otto. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a nice bath could bring an end to human grumpiness?

      I know this — it’s hard to be grumpy while outdoors, enjoying nature and enjoying the learning process at the same time. One of the best lessons has been that there’s always something new and unexpected to see. The key is getting out in the world, and looking.

  25. What a great storyteller you are, Linda ! I enjoyed your tale with the perfect pictures. I looked up the translation for grackle and found “mynah, myna or mainate in French (one who imitates voices). No wonder your dialogue went on so smoothly ;) I spent a very nice moment, one with suspense too and I thank you for it.

    1. Isn’t it fun to tell and hear stories? I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Isa. Just as an aside, I was back at the slough today, and saw something that I’ve heard about, but never seen. It appears that the coots are “flocking up,” and getting ready to migrate north. In this photo, they look for all the world like a flock of grade school children preparing to go off on a field trip!

  26. Great story – and I love the Ogden Nash poem you quoted – he’s always great!! These pictures remind me of a wetlands near me, I’m due for a visit – thanks for the memory jolt!

    1. Kids today miss so much, I fear. We grew up learning to love poetry partly because of people like Nash, who could be just plain silly, but still craft a verse.

      Do head to your wetlands — it’s the perfect time of year for it. Spring is in full force here, and things are changing rapidly from week to week. Before long, it will be summer!

    1. Thanks so much, Bun Karyudo! Happy endings always add to the fun, don’t they? I’m glad you enjoyed the little tale, and that you took the time to say so. I appreciate your comment.

      ~ Linda

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Debra. I must say, I have great affection for the birds, partly because they’re so numerous where I work, and I get to spend my days watching their antics. (In case you missed it, I varnish boats, and work on the docks. Houston high rise office buildings haven’t gone aviary yet!)

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment. I appreciate it!

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