Single parent for the next few days. Jacob, our youngest, has been sickish for some weeks. So he's gone to Germany with Claudia. We're not sure what's up with him, but we're having it looked at. I have a couple of posts yet in mind about Jordan, but they're a bit depressing. So let's talk about birds.
When you live in a city, you get a little starved for birds. Around here, we get sparrows, hooded crows, magpies, swifts, and doves. The hoodies are often fun to watch, the swifts are as graceful and acrobatic as swifts always are, and the doves are pretty, but it's not a lot of variety. Once in a while we'll catch a glimpse of a woodpecker or -- thrillingly -- a hoopoe. But still. So when a new bird showed up, we were startled and delighted. I say a new bird, but actually it was a new flock of birds. Dozens of them. Medium-sized songbirds, black with a white breast and back. They showed up suddenly, between one day and the next. And loud! They'd congregate in the big apricot tree in our back yard, and caw and squeak and flutter. They were entertaining to watch. But... what were they? Talking to Armenians gave nothing. No offense, but Armenians seem to be the least bird-interested people I have ever met. Part of that is surely because we're in Yerevan -- city people usually aren't that interested in birds -- and part is because birding was not a hobby that was particularly popular under Communism. There may be some stupid reason for that, like the government not wanting people running around with cameras and binoculars. Or it may just be that it's a Western thing that never caught on. Whatever the reason, people in post-Communist countries are just not likely to be interested in birds. And Armenia seems to carry this tendency to an extreme. Which is a damn shame, since it's a country that's very rich in birds... but that's a story for another time. Anyway, talking to neighbors and colleagues gave me a lot of blank looks. Bird books and online resources, not much help either. Medium-sized black and white social passerines? In Armenia? Nothing. It's late, so I'll cut a long story short: it turns out the birds aren't black and white. They're black and pale pink. I didn't spot this because (1) I was always seeing them against the sky, where pale colors tend to get washed out, and (2) I'm badly out of practice. (In my defense, it really is a pale pink. See here for some examples.) They're Rosy Starlings, and they're here for the mulberry crop. The mulberries are coming in this week, and it's looking like a very good year. Apparently the starlings show up every third year or so; the mulberry crop has to be above average, or they won't bother. They gorge themselves for a week or two, then disappear. (How did I learn this? I found a guy. But that's another story.) The Rosy is another one of those birds that Americans and Western Europeans never see; it's native to eastern Europe and temperate Asia. Winters in India and the Middle East, summers in Central Asia and Russia -- the flocks here will probably head north over the Caucasus once the mulberries are done. Totally useless information: in Germany this bird is called the Rosenstar, which is kind of cool. In Finland it's the Punakottarainen, which may be even cooler. And in Gaelic it's the Druid-Dhearg, which is surely the coolest of all. And that's all.