For days now, I’ve heard a tapping at my window. It was so regular I thought it must be a twig from a bush scratching the glass, creating a high-pitched whine as annoying as it was insistent. On the second day, I went to the garage for a pair of garden clippers, but I found no twig scraping the window. Ah, it must be the baby that moved into the ohana house next door, I thought.
I don’t play music or turn on the TV for background noise while I’m working at my desk. I prefer the ambient lyrics of nature, even the frequent rooster raising the alarm at all hours of the day and, sometimes, night. The twitter of birds. The chatter of palm fronds. This is the music of my days. Truth is, the crying baby didn’t harmonize well with the chorus. I don’t mind the shouts of the dozen playing kids next door; laughing kids are even better. Children’s squeals of laughter must trigger happiness in the cells of our being, unconsciously tapping happy times from childhood.
But the screeching continued, triggering something other than joy. I went upstairs to work, but every time I came back to my desk, the sound was there, steady as but not as soothing as a metronome. Would this be my quarantine hell? Edgar Allen Poe’s raven? A visitor “tapping at my chamber door.” I might be dealing with sheltering at home and wearing masks in public just fine, but the screeching might drive me mad.
And, then, last evening, it were as if the entire hibiscus outside my window sprang to life, every limb running its fingers across the chalkboard of my patience. The screeching was magnified fivefold. A train wreck of screeching metal, there was no working with this annoying screech screech screech.
It was time to investigate again, and this time, I saw a flurry erupt from the hibiscus bush, first, a male and, then, a female white-rumped shama, and the screeching was revealed to be three bald little baby white-rumped shama chicks, their demanding yellow mouths wide open, their vocal cords screaming for food. How could three little creatures make such a racket?
Today, when I sat at my desk, I knew each time a parent arrived with a snack. According to Birds of North America, white-rumped shama feed their nestlings insects like ants, caterpillars, moths, beetles, flies, spiders. Even centipedes. They forage on low branches and on the ground. This afternoon, Eric was doing yard work and witnessed a parent—he didn’t say whether it was the mother or father—deliver a gecko to its offspring. And they kept busy, these parents, based on the screeching, all day, delivering one snack after another.
Chicks take their first flights somewhere between 11 and 13 days of age. Parents have been observed feeding chicks up to 26 days after fledging. That means, barring the predator of a cat or rat taking the chicks, they’ll see me through the rest of our shelter-at-home timetable.
Funny, now when I hear the screeching chicks, I imagine their yellow maws agape and a parent delivering some nourishing protein, and it sounds like a symphony of birds to me. Delightful.
One new case added to today’s statewide count, now at 620. Kauai still at 21.