Saturday, November 21, 2009

case of the curious flying squirrel-like bird-thing

so this thing came gliding down from the canopy of tall oak trees, from the upper left field of my vision, gliding down to the right in a slight arc. i watched, filled with anticipation, wondering what new species of bird i was going to discover at 7:45am saturday morning. without warning — no flapping or extending of wings to slow down and prepare for a graceful landing — *SMACK!* mr flying thing hits the side of a large tree. my brain was in denial that a bird would travel that fast and smack into a tree (nothing bounced off and landed in the crisp bed of leaves on the forest floor), so my eyes kept following the possibly-now-deceased bird-thing's previous trajectory. they gave up when my brain registered the fact that they were just sweeping across a scene filled with trees and not much else and that all the action was back there at the tree. so my eyes swung back to the crash site.

nothing moved.

there were some thin branches, belonging to equally thin trees, stubbornly clutching on to their last reddish-orange leaves that crossed in front of the tree i was watching. the leaves swayed in the cool morning breeze every once in a while. registered that: not a bird-thing.

there was a knot of wood on the trunk of the tree; it didn't move. file that: not a bird-thing.

up a little ways, above the criss-cross of branches, above the benign knot of wood, there was a vertical gash, dark brown, about six or seven inches long. hmmm…that's right about where the flying thing smacked into the tree. registering…registering…

two to three minutes later, it hadn't moved. register that: not a bird-thing.

a few seconds after i filed that into the mental topographic map of this tree, the gash moved. it scampered up the tree. no hopping, bouncing, or fluttering; it climbed. my brain decided that this was a pretty fantastic moment, so it sent signals on down to my facial muscles to assume the appropriate expression, meaning that my mouth fell open in that universal countenance indicating reduced mental faculty. as that happened, the once-flying-now-scampering thing leapt from the tree and glided down *SMACK!* into another equally unforgiving tree. same descending arc. no wing action.

my brain, being overstimulated at this point, busied itself with the task of rearranging the expression on my face into one of delight, surprise, and confusion, while simultaneously toying around with another thought: flying squirrel.

could it be possible? they're nocturnal creatures. it was pretty light out, and anything past 6:00am, in my book, is disqualified from being classified as "nocturnal." even so, i'm sticking with my decision until someone can prove me wrong, based on these three Very Scientific Observations:

Very Scientific Observation number 1: it didn't fly. at least, not in the traditional sense. wing beats were never present, nor was there any spreading of wings to slow down before landing.
Very Scientific Observation number 2: it didn't die. birds are not constructed to survive SMACKING into trees at moderately high speeds. this creature was supposed to be able to SMACK into tree trunks. he probably thinks he's pretty cool, too.
Very Scientific Observation number 3: it scampered. in addition to surviving high-speed impacts into solid objects, scampering is also something that birds do not do well.

as you can plainly see, the Scientific Evidence is stacked in favor of the southern flying squirrel. and you can't argue with science…


Mary said...

I have a mental picture of you, jaw dropped, at 6m. I'm laughing out loud. My reaction would be the same. Never seen a flyin' squirrel. Cool.

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

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