Monday, February 25, 2008

How DID We Come Up With the Rake?

This Junco if you'll notice has been methodically doing his double-pull-back-scratch down the edge of the bench excavating seeds. See all the lateral lines? Rather like the fork marks on the edge of a pie. Which makes me wonder if that's where tap dancers got the double pull back tap step. Unlikely, but as I've been down with the flu, I've been having all sorts of weird ideas. You just never know where they will take you. But that was my second idea.

Here Mr. Junco has back scratched and just about tumped himself off the back of the bench in the process.
He scrambles back up. Glares at me, as obviously it is my fault. When I threw seed out for the ground feeders the wind took it over into the snow on the bench. Poof! A lot of it disappeared from sight.
Ah, he gets a seed. That's enough reward to give it another try. Oh yes, my second idea. What all the reverse scratchers are doing--the Juncos, the Towhees, the White-throated Sparrows--is "raking" the unwanted big stuff off the littler stuff they want. So I had an image of a human looking at her scuffed up fingers and her single foraging stick, while lying under a tree resting and watching one of these birds working on the leaf debris and separating the wheat from the chaff as it were.
Mr. Junco goes for the double scratch back once again.
Uh, oh. That was a close one. He almost went off the back with all those particles of snow.
He finds another seed, and this time he stays sideways when he scratches back. It does put more snow on where he's going next but we all learn from experience and figure out how to cut our losses.
But he'd really rather I didn't watch him anymore. So I get back in bed and think of bird feet and rakes.
This is technically called a cultivator, but it's really a rake to separate what you don't want from what you do want. Looks rather like a birdie foot to me. Okay it has an extra "toe" but it's a later century improvement on the three toed stick original.
Don't tell anyone but they might have gotten the idea for the original design from the splaying of the fingers on their own hands.
Or from using multi twigged branches to sweep/pull the unwanted from the wanted item.
I get up for a drink of water. There's Doorstep Dove. Once again the lone dove staking out the yard. Wait a minute. Is she really staking out the yard? She did this last winter too. Could Mourning Doves be matriarchal? I've never seen the males fighting over territory.
Not likely at all, but it does give me something to think about as I wait to get well.
Donegal Browne

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