Bob Howell

I am sad to report there are no significant developments in our on-going  series of possum sightings on our patio over the last few nights. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you don't feed them, they don't drop by for a late-night snack. So, when you take up the food after feeding the cat, you don't see as much of Patsy Possum or any of her relatives as they searched for food.

I've thought about buying an outdoor camera like the ones hunters use when eavesdropping on game traveling along established trails at night. If I can work it out with the crew at The Villager, I'll share any wild game pix I collect.

Switching gears — but not locales — an interesting tie-in between the ubiquitous Southern mockingbird and writer Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Paula and I were sitting on the patio enjoying the beautiful spring weather that followed a stormy weekend. 

Our conversation was interrupted several times by a mockingbird's song. We recalled how my mother had a long line of mockingbirds that grew up having meals at Mama's feeder situated next to a big picture window in the breakfast room. To cut down on confusion, she named each one "Woodstock" from the cartoon strip "Peanuts" by Charles Schultz. 

She developed such a loving and non-threatening relationship with each and every one of the birds that they would fly into the garage when she would go into wash and dry clothes. They would have long "talks" while she did the wash. The mockingbird would walk around on the top of the chest freezer with his toenails clicking as he carried on his end of the conversation.

In Harper Lee's book, the character "Miss Maudie" explains what Scout's father Atticus meant when he said "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird." 

She said, "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... but sing their hearts out for us . That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

It's easy to see the good in mockingbirds, which according to multiple sources I checked are not afraid to attack dogs, cats, much larger birds like hawks and even people who come near their nesting areas. 

I recall that happening to our big ole' dog Charlie Brown, who had a heart of gold wrapped in an appearance of ferocity. 

He and I were taking a walk around the park when out of nowhere Charlie was the victim of a fly-by attack. Screeching and violent wing flapping caught him off guard. 

Judging by the sound and fury, you would have thought we had crossed into a mongoose's refuge. Needless to say, we gave the nesting mockingbird a wide berth when passing by the next time. 

When not guarding its nest, the mockingbird keeps busy by learning new songs or calls, if you will. Researchers believe a mockingbird can learn hundreds of calls. He's so good at it that it's difficult to determine which is real and which is the "mocked" version.

Mockingbirds apparently enjoy scaring up their next meal of insects and bugs ... literally. 

Have you spotted a mockingbird running across your lawn only to come to an abrupt halt followed by raising its wings about half way up? 

This wing-waving apparently frightens the hapless insect who tries to make a getaway only to be silently speared by the mockingbird. All in a day's work for the hungry bird. 

Those lucky birds that ate at my mama's house just had to make a perfect  two-point landing to dig in and help themselves.

That's it for this week's conversation. Here's to birds and possums and other things that go bump in the night. I'll keep you posted.

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