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All feathers


Birds haven’t been in the news this much since director Alfred Hitchcock wrapped up his classic “The Birds” and star Tippi Hedren began coping with a lifelong fear of beaks.

At the Iowa Statehouse, a bill to allow the hunting of mourning doves was passed and signed into law in a quick sequence of events. Remarkably quick. Like when you’re trying to hide a bag of cash you just stole, and your accomplice rushes in and tells you the cops are downstairs, so you deposit it in the closet; quick like that.

The Legislature is a deliberative body that can kill several days deciding whether to open a window, but for some reason, the doves’ decades of good luck ran out. I would assume that lawmakers realize times are hard, and they want Iowans to have more natural food sources. With mourning doves, you can harvest several ounces of meat for only a few dollars’ worth of ammunition.

One of our thought leaders also pointed out that doves don’t live very long anyway, so why not get it over with?

So if you’re ever old, ill and hospitalized, and a dove hunter comes to visit, make sure to have someone standing by to keep him away from the tubes and switches.

In other bird news, people from all over the world have been fascinated by the webcam pointed toward a bald eagle nest near Decorah. When I first checked in, I was amazed to have such a great view of the wind ruffling the feathers of a big, beautiful eagle. Majestic. Devoted to the eggs it was keeping warm. Fearless.

Sitting there. Doing nothing. Living a life so dull as to make office work seem acceptable.

It served as a reminder that public television’s nature specials are a miracle of editing. There’s nothing cooler than the sight of an eagle swooping down on a remote lake to grab a big fish in its talons. Unless it’s the sight of an eagle snatching up a bag of cash and depositing it in my closet, but no luck so far.

In between meals, though, most wild animals lead the kind of sedentary lifestyle that, among humankind, led research scientists to develop the stretchy waistband. Animals near the top of the food chain eat, they bet on who can come closest to getting hit by a car, they sleep. That’s about it.

It’s Mother Nature’s version of baseball.

Now that the eaglets have hatched, the webcam is much more interesting. But you know how that will turn out. An empty nest followed by nostalgia and heavy drinking.

Away from the news, I’m still dealing with birds, because the vultures are in action out at our place. In the past, we have had as many as a dozen huge carrion eaters circling overhead at once, for some reason. We’re starting to wonder if there’s a wagon train stranded out there behind the trees.

You’re welcome to come and observe, but avoid packing a meat-based sandwich.

Or if you want to see sea gulls, so many of them that it will feel almost exactly like a relaxing vacation by the ocean, I know the place for that, too. The Jasper County landfill.

On a recent Saturday, hundreds of sleek white gulls stood there watching while we unloaded the pickup. They just observed, not making a sound. Clearly disappointed that we weren’t dumping a rejected batch of sushi, but strangely silent.

We finished our work, eased into the truck and slowly drove past the flock and on to safety.

Next time, I’m taking Tippi Hedren along. If somebody has to make the sacrifice, hey, she’s 81 years old. She’s probably not going to live that much longer anyway.

Jim Pollock is the editor of the Des Moines Business Record. He can be reached by email at jimpollock@bpcdm.com

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