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A story about the merlin.

January 26, 2015


I decided to carry the long heavy lens. Yesterday the beautiful merlin had returned to her distant perch on top of the snag tree near the duck pond. She’d been absent for nearly a week.

But in the recently cleared north field where the warblers usually work the conifers, it was strangely quiet and I wondered about the lack of small bird business there. Then I saw her, the merlin, in a low pine branch not more than 50 feet from me. The warblers knew she was there, that’s why they were elsewhere. I took a quick shot with the 200 millimeter in the overcast light and checked my exposure.

I watched her and she watched me as I began the slow and deliberate motions to unclip the longer lens and deploy the monopod. She was unconcerned; perhaps she’s gotten used to my green Loxahatchee hat and the strange mechanical camera from previous sightings. And then…

“How ya doin’?” boomed the doofus, approaching from behind me down the path at a pace too rapid to observe anything, which is typical for his kind.

“Shsssh!” I scolded.

“Oh, the birds” he said, glancing vaguely at the empty tree where the merlin once was.

“Crap” I said to his back as he blundered off down the trail.

My mind immediately turned to all the bloody events of mass murder down through history: the rampage of Genghis Kahn, the African Slave Trade, the Aboriginal Genocides, Crusaders and Conquistadors, the Jewish Holocaust and Khmer Rouge. None of these programs of population control had succeeded in preventing this doofus from emerging out of our gene pool.

A misty wind blew across the field of short palmettos. I wrapped my gear in a trash bag as the rain began to fall. On the other side of the field a small flock of warblers fluffed and bathed and drank from the pools of rainwater collecting in the bushes. Further down the path a fat raccoon waddled out of the scrub, looked at me, and disappeared back into the undergrowth. An egret and a woodstork fled at my slow approach above them as they fished in the drainage canal.

All the animals of the Earth are afraid of us, of course. We are the Sapiens, the ones who know evil. We have it in our hearts, and they know it.


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