Outside my office window, I hear the coo-coo-coo of a mourning dove. I noticed a few days ago, a powder gray bird sitting on the peak of my house, the mechanical jerks of its egg-shaped head observing the Salt Lake Valley below. Dusk was approaching. In the west, amber, pink, and midnight blues washed the sky like watercolors.
My neighborhood butts up against a hillside carpeted by tall wild grasses and inhabited by voles, tail-less ground squirrels, and all manners of birds. I suspect my rooftop is a perch oasis to all fliers; small finches, ducks, and predatory ones, too.
Hawks frequent here evident by the scant bodies of headless field mice decomposing across my asphalt shingles that I kick off every fall when I climb up to hang Christmas lights.
One year, a baby snow owl, big black-eyed, almost translucent and square, tried nesting on the plastic wreath I hang on my front door. The car headlights of neighbors, as well as my own, was what made the bird pack up and leave never to return.
Often, young red-tailed hawks race each other nearby. Twins once spent the morning in our backyard playing in our Rainbird sprinklers knocking them sideways. Their mother, watchful and intense, her head constantly searching the area, sat balanced in the eves of a house across the street.
Last year a mouse-colored finch seemed to fancy one of our pillars on our front porch. She slept there when the nights turned cold, and the heat of our house lights warmed her. We named her Bernice the Bird. She’d watch us come and go, one round eye blinking a reply to our whispered, “Good morning, Bernice!” or “Goodnight!”
Pairs of Mallard Ducks fly into my neighborhood the beginning of every spring. They waddle the streets like an old couple holding hands, considering real estate. They inspect front porches, landscaped islands, and nooks under Bay windows in which to lay eggs.
A mottled feathered female and an emerald green male are known to my family and me, as The Martins, and are returning vacationers. They have chosen the house directly north of mine several times in which to live. My next-door neighbor has installed a flat piece of plywood to shield The Martins’ nest from the street and passerbys.
I love where I live. Something is always happening here. Last month, coming back from a walk with my dog, I spotted a male mallard relaxing in the zone where the cooing dove sits now. In seconds, the drake barked a secession of four quick quacks and frantically dove off my roof. Soaring behind him, without a sound, rushed a red-tailed hawk chasing him away.