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Mill Valley Is For The Birds!

Mill Valley Is For The Birds!
by James Saint Cloud   

    Have you enjoyed the experience of a squadron of Canadian geese as they come squawking in for a landing above your head? How very excellent! They are ubiquitous on the Tam High athletic field where they gnaw at the grass; though not so many of them there the last few days and I wonder why. Not that they’d go off north to Canada, of course. Why do that, when springtime’s honeyed air remains here all year round? It must mess with a goose’s brain, wondering if summer’s ever to appear.
    Most of the geese are fifth or better generation Mill Valley residents and going anywhere else is at most an awkward dream. They breed in the creeks where they raise their families; and if you park yourself along the creek behind the Methodist church across from the Redwoods at the right season the fluffy youngin’s will file past your bench with Mom and Pop taking up the rear and giving you a watchful eye.
    The ducks drift by in flotillas or small dabs with their own pecking order as you throw them food from shore or from a bridge. They have their favorites; the bridge to the right of the Union Bank on Miller Avenue was the place to be if you were a duck, last time I looked.
    Folks spend big bucks to go globe trotting on bird-watching safaris in far off bushy spots, returning with excellent rare diseases and remarkable slideshows to present to the cognoscenti of the birding world in venues such as the Marin Audubon Society, whose beautiful yellow Victorian mansion sits near the Bay along the road into Tiburon with a pleasant amble available along the shoreline out in back.
    A glimpse at the Society’s web page will inform of their presentations and field trips, and give notice of Ken Burton’s second edition of A Checklist of the Birds of Marin County. ($5 from the Society.)   
    The white egrets are happy in Mill Valley, snaring little fishes out long the marsh and making a comeback from near extinction. Snowflakes on wings. I’m not sure what thinned them out in times gone by; I doubt they’re any good to eat. The plumed hats of Napoleonic French officers perhaps? Could be an IQ problem though; they like to stand beside the road and watch the cars go by.
    Speaking of eating, earlier today I enjoyed my favorite splurgy treat of bing cherry pie from Upper Crust Bakery. Umm! I scattered leftover golden flaky crumbs on a patch of ground in the back yard then went inside; and in an hour every tae and sparrow in the neighborhood was there, pecking order in full swing. With my reappearance to sit and read my book they scattered, no more to return.
    Far less spookable are the whirry spitting hummingbirds that will stand spinning in the air not two feet away from me to consider my presence before continuing their feasting on the nearby flowers and the red paintbrush tree. Spit! Spit! Spit! The sound they make. And why? Are they throwing kisses or emoting angst?
    My friend Walkin’ Don Moseman has taken an amazing photograph of a humming bird and a bumble bee hovering in mid-air face to face. (It’s in his book, Embrace Your Inner Wild.) The wildest of wildlife take turns inviting Don to get up close and personal; hawks, eagles, fox, wolves, as he encounters them on his several walks across the United States. Three times now at least. He gets great shots. No fear of him at all, despite the fact Don spent 30 years locked up inside San Quentin’s towers.
    I doubt the sparrows would scatter because of him.
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    James Saint Cloud is the author of The Alchemy of Feelings, Reclaiming The Inner Life From Mental Cruelty, available through the Mill Valley Book Depot.

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