Trouble in Paradise?

While I’ve been focused in recent weeks on our sudden profusion of spring wildflowers, that doesn’t mean the birds — interesting, funny, inscrutable — haven’t been providing their own sorts of pleasure. 

When I found these birds standing atop a small mud island in a Brazoria Wildlife Refuge pond, my first thought was that a double-date might have gone wrong. Perhaps the male Northern Shovelers on the left had decided to seek out more congenial companions, while the birds on the right — which might be young Northern Shovelers, or some other species entirely — were left to ponder their options.

In any event, the amusing scene is worth enlarging for the sake of a closer look at the birds’ expressions. Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid anthropomorphizing; feel free to write your own story!


Comments always are welcome.

53 thoughts on “Trouble in Paradise?

  1. You have been getting some great wildlife shots. I observe the birds in my yard and they all seem to “know” each other, but if a visiting migrator comes they recognize them as strangers.

    1. I don’t see many migrants at my place, but I’ve certainly watched the behavior of our resident birds when a threat — like a hawk or raven — shows up. On the other hand, when a pair of mallards started visiting, the other birds were perfectly happy to feed right alongside them. The cardinals and other ground feeders clearly saw them as no threat at all.

    1. Indeed, it can. In this case, I was laughing even before I’d written any sort of story. Seeing those birds in two different kinds of synch was just funny.

    1. I hung around for between five and ten minutes, and not much changed. One of the males stretched a foot, and one of the birds on the right stuck its bill into its feathers for a moment, but otherwise what you see is what I saw when I arrived, and what I still was seeing when I left.

  2. The girls are thinking, “Food?” The guys are thinking, “Don’t rain on our parade. We’re courting.”

  3. “Quite frankly, Harold, if I’d known these girls would be so stand-offish, I’d made other plans.”

      1. Actually, I read the missing word into your sentence anyway. But you did give me a chance to ponder why “I’d of” or “I’d ‘a”so often replaces “I’d have.” Maybe it gets changed in speech because those constructions are easier to say.

      1. A couple of days ago, I learned a friend had a sister named Lavern. My dad was named Lavern. Even the spelling was the same in both cases — the usual girl-version often is Laverne. To be honest, Miranda and Clarisse suit that pair just fine!

    1. Maybe the invitation said, “Dress — Cruising Casual.” That phrase pops up here from time to time, and there are radically different ways to interpret it.

  4. I think the fellas are not happy – one is saying ‘Well that didn’t work out!’ At the same time the girls are thinking, ‘ Let’s just pretend they’re not there…’

  5. Ha Ha, good capture, Linda! Yes, they do look like they had a falling out, don’t they? Perhaps disagreements are as common in nature as they are among humans? The ones on the left look very angry, while the ones on the right almost look to be saying, “Gee, get over it already!”

    1. There sure are squabbles in nature, especially around food and territory, but this looks like something else entirely. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what caused that falling out?

    1. And all it took was reading the phrase ‘junior high school dance’ to see that scene — with the girls on one side of the gym, the boys on the other, and the chaperones waxing nostalgic about their own junior high experiences.

    1. That’s what caught my eye first. Then, when they stayed put, I thought about the way our parents used to implore us to “Stand still!” for a photo.

  6. Alas, that tired old bit of doggerel came to mind. I’ll only inflict the punch line on you. LIB. MR Ducks. And a rather striking pair on the left with their yellow eyes. I like their two-tone paint job, and the bill-shadow on their white breast feathers almost looks like they are wearing ties. Both sets are very sculptural. I could see the pair on the right in carved wood with beaten brass feathers.

    1. I’d forgotten that little bit of fun. I found it’s about thirty-five years old — but you still can buy a tee shirt or coffee mug that sports the whole thing. Despite the flashiness of the pair on the left, I agree that there’s a real elegance to the ones on the right. Your suggestion for a way to portray them as sculptures would work very well indeed.

    1. Oh, that’s great! I’ve never known married twins myself, but there were married twins of my grandparents’ generation in their little Iowa town, and the stories were amusing, to say the least.

    1. There’s very little that’s more fun that finding something in nature that’s inherently humorous — and these birds certainly were to my human eye!

    1. That’s especially true since they spent a good while holding those poses. I thought they might move, eventually, but I was the one who gave up and wandered off while they continued to sit.

  7. “Paparazzi, they just don’t give up.”
    “Don’t look at her.”
    “She won’t go away.”
    “Only one thing left to do.”

    (And I am really ashamed to stoop to this.)


    1. That’s something I hadn’t considered: that they might be considering the doofus with the camera rather than each other. And I can’t believe I missed the opportunity for that sort of word play — well done!

  8. I just love these sorts of nature-based storytelling images. Anthropomorphising is encouraged. And I love Wally Jones’ interpretation!

    1. I wonder — perhaps the plants (and trees, and dragonflies, and such) do see us as paparazzi. We certainly can be snoopy, and especially when an uncommon avian visitor is spotted, we can be tempted to cluster. As for story-telling, there are uncounted stories out there just waiting to be told!

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