Tonight’s edition of Saturday Night Augur comes to you from the community of Corolla on Bodie Island, part of North Carolina’s magnificent Outer Banks. Just across the road on the sound side is the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary and Center, where you can hire a kayak and have a paddle around the marshes leading out to Currituck Sound. A few miles north of here, wild horses are frequently spotted strolling the streets surrounding quiet Corolla Village.
Truth be told, the augur is feeling lazy. The weather today is perfect: sunny, in the 80s, a cool breeze carrying billowing white clouds across my sightline, the Atlantic’s invigorating chill, Whitmanesque. After spending the morning on the toasty white-sand beach, I’m sitting on a balcony, writing, occasionally lifting my gaze to scan the horizon for pods of dolphins and pilot whales like the ones we saw last year. In other words, I’m on vacation.
Fortunately, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is not. According to Birdcast, the Southeast still isn’t getting a lot of migratory action. Denizens of the region might spy Mississippi Kites, Purple Martins, Baltimore Oriels, or five kinds of warblers. From my perch on the Outer Banks, I’m not seeing a lot of birds right now other than gulls, plovers, and my new favorites, boat-tailed grackles.
The male boat-tailed grackle’s plumage is a satiny black overlaid with iridescent purple, blue, and green. He has bright yellow eyes and fanning, showy tail feathers, all the better to lure the pretty brown females. The grackles hop-run awkwardly along the beach in search of any tasty morsel, be it plucked from the sand or from the hand of humans.
I don’t recall noticing the grackles on previous trips. Today, a handful of them reconnoitered the area surrounding our encampment, probably looking for handouts. One cheeky little fellow scored a cheese cracker from some beachgoers, but I didn’t see if it was offered or stolen.
Another of this morning’s flock, rangy and bold, seemed particularly interested in what was happening under our umbrella, despite the fact that we didn’t have any food with us. He waddle-galloped toward me at full tilt, stopping a couple of feet short of the blanket. We regarded one another, and for a moment I thought we were communing, but I was quickly disabused of that notion when, after finding me empty-handed, he dashed away.
The message of the birds for today, Saturday, August 31, 2013: Without food, you mean nothing to me.
From the blackbirds of Corolla to “The Blackbird of Glanmore”–rest in peace, Seamus Heaney.