Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tales From The Field: CSI Bird Patrol

For all you regular readers, here is a little change of pace from our 2013 Field Studies Supervisor, Neal Cowan.
Tales From The Field
CSI Bird Patrol

For those of you who do not know me, I’m Neal Cowan and I’m running our 2013 nest box study, sponsored by Ameren, Missouri. Instead of a traditional blog, I thought it might be fun to tell you a little story about some of the mysteries I face, while embellishing the facts a little. All of the characters and events in the tale you are about to hear are allegories for birds, as well as some of the things I have to deal with in the field.  It is a wild world out there, and things don’t always go according to plan. While we all hope for the best, birds included, many nests will fall victim to predation before the chicks have time to fledge. This is the story of one such nest. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Meet our main character, Beau "Blue" Baird

Chapter 1:

It was a cold spring morning.  The kind of morning when you wake up and expect to find yourself eye-to-eye with a bad day.  Beau Baird glared with bloodshot eye at the clock from under the pillow: 4:32am.  Today was going to be just that--a bad one.  He reluctantly dragged himself out of bed.

“Dear Lord…” he murmured, “I’m coming…don’t get your panties in a twist.”

The insistent banging on the hard oak door was hardly an inviting wakeup call.

            “You better be smoking hot, or on fire.”

The hinges cried and the chain snapped tight as he peered into the poorly lit hall.  He immediately recognized the petite figure at the doorway and let out an audible sigh as he shut the door and let loose the chain. The door was opened, but she didn’t come in.

            “What do you want?“

            “Why aren’t you answering your phone?!,” She interrupted.

            “Chicka it’s 4…“

            “Get your pants on Blue, we’ve got a case.” And quicker than you could say coffee, she had disappeared down the hall.
            Caroline Dea always had too much energy, in Beau’s opinion anyway.  Once she got her nose into something that was it.  She was in high gear to the end.  Beau Baird, or Blue, as she took to calling him, was the polar opposite. For the best he always figured. She keeps him moving, and he keeps her feet on the ground.  He never knew for sure where she picked up the name “Chicka” though.

            He pulled on a pair of clean white slacks and his red turtleneck, grabbing his blue trench coat and fedora as he headed out the door.  The few minutes it took him to get dressed and into the car must have felt like an eternity to her.  She was already behind the wheel and looked like she could jump clean out of her skin at the drop of a hat.

            “There’s been a break-in, down on Jay Bird Street.  Four people are missing and the place is a wreck.  Corinne Tarin was picked up on the scene, but…” She was spitting words like a tommy gun spits lead.

            “Slow down Chicka, I haven’t even had my coffee yet. Swing by Dave’s and…”

            “Ugh, when are you going to learn?” She glanced at the styrofoam cup sitting in the holder next to his left knee as they sped down the road.

            Beau smiled and sighed in relief as he reached for the dark ambrosia.

            “So like I was saying, the neighbors reported a commotion and Corinne was picked up on the scene…“

            “Corinne? Of the…”

            “Yeah, as in member of the cowbird gang.”

            “But they…“

            “Exactly, that’s what I’m saying: this whole thing smells fishy!” She finished her sentence as they pulled up on the scene.

            With the sun peeking over the rooftops, but not quite reaching street level, the old brick house looked like Blue was feeling; like it was waking up to a day it just didn’t like the feel of.

            Blue and Chicka jumped out of the car and crossed the yellow police tape.  The cops had come and gone, leaving just one patrol car on the corner to keep an eye on things.  Of course the officer inside had long since dozed off.

            Once inside, the true scope of the carnage gave Blue pause.  With the yellow tape and broken window, there was no mistaking that this was a crime scene.  Inside it looked more like a hurricane had blown through than anything a mortal could have done.  Furniture was thrown around.  There was broken glass everywhere.  There were holes in the walls, and even the carpet was torn up.

            Chicka was speechless.  This worried Blue more than anything else.
            A member of the Cowbird Gang was found fleeing the scene when the cops arrived. Sure they’re a nuisance, destructive and annoying, but vandalism and kidnapping? This just isn’t there M.O. They like to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests so to speak, not destroy them.

            “You said there are four people missing?” Beau took a sip from his coffee.

            “Yeah, the father is out of town on business, but the wife and their three children are unaccounted for.”

            “What was Corinne doing here?” he mumbled as they continued examining the house.
            They wandered from room to room for a few more minutes, neither of them making a sound. The police, before them, had scoured the place with a fine toothed comb and found nothing. It was clean… too clean…
            “Let’s get downtown. I want to hear what song our caged bird has to sing about this.”

To be continued…

Submitted by Neal Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

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