|male Vermilion Flycatcher (my file photo 11/26/09)|
Yesterday when I picked up my first graders from music class, I noticed the resident pair of Vermilion Flycatchers in the courtyard. As my students filed past me in line, I told them to be very quiet so they wouldn't scare the birds away. Not many were listening though. Apparently they had been learning about marching songs because they were all marching and humming away like some kind of goofy scene from Stripes. One boy was so into it, he continued past me and shot me a look like, “Don’t bother me, I’m marching!” I managed to hustle back to the marching leader and stop them near where the birds were perched. I pointed and said, “Look, right there in the tree.” A girl said, “A bird!” A few others saw them too, perched on a low branch twenty feet in front of them. All the commotion caused the pair to fly up to a higher perch. This allowed other students who were looking in the right direction to catch a glimpse of the beautifully colored male. More commotion ensued and the pair flew higher out of sight. I knew the kids in the back of line didn’t get a chance to see them.
Back in the classroom I fired up the projector and called up the page on the Vermilion Flycatcher from whatbird.com. The class was impressed with the stunningly good looks of the male. I also showed them the photos of the female. With a tone of machismo I said, “In almost all birds, the boy is prettier and more colorful than the girl. Sorry girls!” One boy pumped his fist with an emphatic, “Yeah!” Then came my question, “Okay, so why do you think the boys are prettier than the girls?” One boy, “Because they’re prettier.” Me- “Yes, true. But why do they have brighter colors? ... Marilyn, what do you think?” “I think the boys are brighter so the wild animals will go after them and not the mom and babies on the nest.” I wish I could have seen the dumbfounded look on my face at that moment. My eleven years of teaching flashed before my eyes. Was I in teacher heaven? Was this inception? I snapped out of what felt like ten seconds but was in reality only an instant. The nine negative phone calls I had made during music time melted away from my memory. WOW! “That is a fantastic answer! Yes, you’re right!” I gathered my composure and told them, “It’s also the boy’s way of saying, hey look at me, I’m hot!” Then in a loud whisper, “So he could get a girlfriend…” Some laughed and boys stuck out their tongues, “Ewwwww, gross!” I switched off the projector and told Marilyn she could go to treasure chest. She had made my day.
After school, I ran into a colleague outside her old classroom. She is suffering from a terrible cancer, and has not returned for this school year. She asked me about my birding and told me to keep posting photos to my flickr site. I hugged her goodbye. As I walked away, I thought to myself, “I can do one better than that.” Thank you Marilyn and Maria for lighting a fire under my butt and inspiring me to create this blog. I dedicate it to both of you.