(Note: these videos were made last summer. Thus the shorts.)
This afternoon my husband and I went to one of our all-time-favourite places: Burnaby Lake, a sort of Shangri-La by the Shore that never fails to calm and thrill me at the same time.
Our favorite spot on Burnaby Lake is called Piper Spit. This is a large expanse of shallow water, a kind of wetlands on the margin of the lake, with a long dock for walking. At the end of it is a sort of round viewing area which gives you a great view of whoever happens to be making an appearance on that day.
We've seen sandhill cranes, dowitchers, wood ducks, Canada geese, blackbirds, cowbirds, mallards, some sort of diving bird we can't categorize, and probably a few dozen more species that move so fast or hide so well that we can't make them out.
The red-winged blackbirds, though - they are very special to me, ever since I realized that they will, when the mood strikes them, fly down and eat right out of your hand. As a little girl I would have fallen over with ecstasy at this, as I was always chasing after wild birds and never catching them. Someone had told me that if I put salt on their tail they would sit still for me, but somehow it never worked.
Today, the blackbirds were skittish and uncooperative. That was fine, because birds have a sort of group mood (like humans, who are also flock animals, though far less intelligent and perceptive). You see mostly juveniles who were born in the spring at this time of year, and they're wisely mistrustful of humans. The great gorgeous mature males seem to have no fear. More than once, I have had a blackbird in each hand, with other blackbirds trying to dislodge them. But for some reason, today the bold birds had taken off to parts unknown.
I had the seeds in my hand, I could HEAR the birds make that lovely "squinge" sound that just seems to open up Paradise, I could see them flitting about in the tree tops. I walked back and forth for a long time with my hand held out, and probably looked a bit foolish. But they weren't coming down. Only two weeks ago I'd had a juvenile male eating out of my hand. Oh well. I was about to give up on the whole thing, when.
This was a "type", not a person. Big, husky, moustached. His belly seemed determined to take up more than its allotted amount of space. It was taking up a separate universe. He seemed "Important" in some obscure, overinflated way (in other words, FAT), like an unofficial Park Guide or Ranger Smith-type. I could almost see his Captain Marvel badge beneath his sagging sweats.
He walked up behind me and just stood there, freaking me out.
"No. No. No. They like black oil sunflower seeds." That was the first thing he said to me. This guy didn't say "hello" or tell me his name. Not even a friendly wave. Maybe his name was They Like Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, but it didn't seem very likely. It seemed more likely that his opening line was advice, based on the fact that I obviously didn't know what the hell I was doing and desperately needed him to set me straight.
"You gotta get some black oil sunflower seeds. You should get rid of that stuff you're trying to feed them, they won't take it." (They had "taken" it a dozen times, eagerly, in the past.) "Or you can maybe try picking some of the sunflower seeds out of that stuff you have. No, I mean right away, do it now! Try it!" Feeling hypnotized by his mediocrity, I actually made a feeble effort to pick out a few sunflower seeds before thinking, screw you.
"That guy is super-friendly" (pointing to one of the more shy birds in a treetop, one that was basically indistinguishable from all the others. In other words: if that bird is 'super-friendly', and I am not - unlike every other bird-lover on the planet - attracting him, I am either innately repellent to blackbirds or just so inept that any bird worth its salt would stay away from me and my wormy seeds.) The way he said it, "super-friendly", had a funny kind of imperative inflection: 'I told you not to do that!", like a weird sort of accusation.
His parting shot was, "Don't shake your hand" (I had always found that sifting the seeds a little made them more visible and brought them down more readily). "Don't make those noises either." Oh! So bird noises don't attract birds. That's why people ALWAYS whistle and make bird noises to birds.
Do you know, never once did I ask for any sort of advice from this guy? He never even gave me his name. He just walked right up to me out of nowhere, Mr. Learned and Omniscient Outdoorsman Who Knows A Hell of a Lot More About Blackbirds Than I Do, and just merrily said, "you're doing it wrong, you're doing it wrong, you're doing it wrong" - and, moreover, "I know how to do it right, and now I'm going to tell you how so you can stop making a complete fool of yourself."
I didn't fully realize I was a victim of mansplaining until I got in the car. On the way home I began to boil. "I wish that son-of-a-bitch could have SEEN me that day in August when I had a large male blackbird on EACH HAND, and then a female blackbird intercepted and knocked one of the males off. I wish that son-of-a-bitch knew that I've been attracting and feeding blackbirds out of my hand since the first day I came here! I wish that son-of-a-bitch knew he had the WRONG BLACKBIRD when he said 'that guy's super-friendly'. It could have been any blackbird. In fact, it WAS just any blackbird. He probably knew that and did it just to shame me and make me feel like a loser!"
I think he was a little bit surprised that I didn't thank him. I think he was a little bit surprised that I didn't clasp my hands beside my face and say, "Ohhhhhhhhh, Mr. Blackbird Expert! THANK you for saving my afternoon by pointing out all my mistakes to me and saving me from my own obvious helplessness and inadequacy. And here I didn't even have to ask!"
My only consolation is that I know from the pit of my stomach that this creep has NEVER fed two, no, THREE blackbirds at the same time, has probably never even fed ONE. He has probably spent his life walking up to people just to point out how inept they are and setting them straight.
No! Not walking up to people. Walking up to women!
Because no guy would ever take the shit I took from this pompous idiot. Because he does not even walk UP to men like that - just women - weak little, simpering little, non-blackbird-feeding women. He probably walked away swelling with self-importance and satisfaction and felt he'd done his fucking duty for the day.
I would say I hope I never see him again, but no. I hope I see him again. I hope I see him when I have two blackbirds on each hand, and one on my shoulder, looking like St. Francis of Fucking Assisi.
But by then he will have conveniently forgotten who I am - or, worse, he'll think to himself,: hmmmmmmmm! She must have taken my advice!
(Please note. All videos and gifs on this post are of ME with BLACKBIRDS. Super-friendly, aren't they?)