Friday, July 9, 2010

mock scrabble

The Northern mockingbird (mimus polyglottos) is a handsome large songbird with an expansive sense of its place in the world. The basic concept - mimic other birds so as to make them think one of their kind is occupying this particular territory - is good, to a point. But m. polyglottos take the concept to excess in every respect. It mimes outside the volume range, outside the daily pattern, and outside the seasonal pattern of the mimicked species. 2 a.m.? mid-July? with a sleep-disturbing intensity? That bespeaks egomania, not ecology, to me.

M. polyglottos transcends one other boundary, mimicking not just birds but whatever has come to its ear, from car alarm pattern to common ring-tones. Polyglot, indeed.

On a recent night, at an unspeakable hour, this season's resident m. polyglottos treated us to a different kind of serenade. The cadence was speech-like, with lower and higher voices at varied tempos and volumes, punctuated by periodic exclamations. Scrabble, anyone? It was a reasonable encore performance of the previous evening's four-way Scrabble game.

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