Sunday, February 10, 2008
It’s about 6:45 a.m. now, with the sky just getting light. I’m listening to a mourning dove somewhere in the courtyard behind my building. I’ve been hearing doves for the last week or so -- I don’t know whether they’ve come back from a winter away (do doves migrate?) or reawakened after a winter hunkered down against the cold. But it’s nice to hear them again.
I used to hear mourning doves often when I was growing up in Florida, as I got dressed for school and went out to wait for the bus. They sat in the pines and maples and sounded their sad, low coo as the sun lightened the sky -- just like the one I’m hearing now. Hearing them again puts me right back in my front yard as an eighth-grader, full of anticipation and dread.
Doves are almost annoying to birdwatchers because they’re so abundant -- a birder will see a silhouetted shape on a power line and for a split second think, “What is that?” And then the unmistakable profile of a mere dove becomes apparent. It’s kind of a let-down. (Having birded a bit myself, I can testify to that.)
The best description of a dove I ever read was in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book “Cross Creek,” about life in rural Alachua County, Florida. I don’t remember exactly what Rawlings wrote, but I remember her mention of its bright pink legs. I’d never noticed that doves have pink legs. But next time you see one, check it out -- they really do.
(Photos: Tree shadows in Dumbo, Brooklyn, Jan. 2008)