Continuing Care Retirement Community

Continuing Care Retirement Community

by Pete McCord
I suppose my antipathy toward thievery might have had its derivations in my professional career. As a prosecuting attorney I spent over 30 years locking up those who stole the property of others. And so, perhaps, even now in retirement, my appreciation of the gentler world of avian friends still gives little tolerance to those who would purloin the sounds and voices of others.   In the avian world every bird – with the exception of the Mockingbird – has its own song. Through a process of rhythm and mnemonics I have been able to identify and commit to memory close to 100 different bird songs. The tiny Carolina Wren inhabiting the bushes along our perimeter path by the vegetable garden loudly proclaims “Tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea!” differing from the musical burst of the House Wren that sings its gurgling song from the roof at 64 Woodside Drive. In the dark woodlands along the Holly Trail I sometimes hear a winsome Wood Peweesing its own name from high up in an oak: “pee-a-wee”. So too do other birds identify themselves to us by singing their own names. The Phoebe, sometimes seen on the garden fence self-identifies (“free-bee!”) before flying off to catch an insect. And sodo the perky little chickadees in the bushes by the pumping station. Along the Willow Trail, the masked Yellowthroat Warbler sings “Withchity, whitchity, withchity,witch!” while at the end of the Rancocas Trail by the creek, the Red-winged Blackbird loudly proclaims: “Konk-la reee!” In our meadow Eastern Bluebirds that sometimes visit and wishfully sit on the boxes that they no longer choose as their homes sing a lilting and hopeful message for the future: “spring of the yee-aaar…” This is not so, however, with the Mockingbird on my roof. He is neither lilting, nor lyrical, but rather a thief of the sounds he hears. At one time, he hears and mimics the sounds of the screeching brakes of the UPS truck that arrives early in the morning outside my house, and continues to do so throughout the entire day with a glee that only those who have no creativity or voice of their own could ever appreciate. On another day, he tries to mimic the lovely trill of the House Wren singing from the neighboring roof, but I am able to distinguish his mimicry through the occasional cackle that he adds at the end in seeming self-approbation over his felonious accomplishment. His harsh efforts in the evening to mimic the lovely and peaceful vesper song of the gentle robin perched in the maple in my backyard, is a brazen insult to the day’s end and the comforting quietude of darkness. But most disturbing is my resident Mockingbird’s tendency to interrupt the nighttime peace with sudden vocal outbursts. As those who have experienced these birds in their own vicinity may have had misfortune to discover, mockingbirds become restless creatures during nighttime hours and often awaken in the middle of the night with memory of some stolen vocalization that they feel compelled to share with the rest of the world. This seems to be the case with my Mockingbird, who likes to recall the screeching of the brakes of the UPS truck at midnight. Often when I awaken to his screech I want to take a shoe and throw it at this creature and yell: “Be gone, you damn thief!” But I fear that to do so might prompt it to fly to my neighbor’s roof and mimic my outburst. This could cause one of my neighbors to turn to the other and say: “Oh dear, should we call the police?” But then the other might say: “No, I think it sounds a lot like Pete. I guess he’s just off on one of his toots again.”

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Medford Main Campus
One Medford Leas Way
Medford, NJ 08055

Lumberton Campus
180 Woodside Drive
Lumberton, NJ 08048

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