Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Bird Watching in Utah


Such is the plaintive call of the thin-skinned Garment back, the Mormon bird. Its natural habitat is the unpromising salt flats of Utah but examples of the species can be found in most developed parts of the world. Although predatory the garment back is not a natural hunter, preferring to scavenge where others have gone before. It’s best known tactic is to find an already developed colony and, like the cuckoo, blend in with the established species – usually the dove-like Cross back, or Christian bird. Having gained the confidence of the stragglers and malcontents that naturally inhabit the fringes of such colonies, they quickly draw away the unwary to form a rival colony, or ward. This usually evokes, albeit too late, a hue and cry among the Cross-backs, whose call becomes increasingly vocal COUNTERFEIT! COUNTERFEIT! This is what, in turn, evokes the return cry of the Garment back PERSECUTION! PERSECUTION!

One particular group of Garment backs is quite distinctive and easily identified. This is the subspecies Badge front, or Missionary bird. The Badge front is so named for the curious flash of jet with white detail it develops on its breast just prior to leaving the colony to "scout" for new colonies to plunder. It is mostly spotted on doorsteps giving its quite distinctive call, which sounds remarkably like GOOD MORNING MR BROWN! GOOD MORNING MR BROWN! Its aim is to gain access in the guise of a subspecies of the Cross back and eventually entice the unwitting creature it has met back to its nest, or ward. There the new member of the colony soon finds itself feeding on scraps and leftovers scavenged by the leaders of the Garment back colony from the stores of the Cross backs. This is usually mixed liberally with husks drawn from wherever they can be found. Those who have never fully enjoyed the healthy fair of the Cross back colony are easily deceived into thinking that this is a feast of good things. However, this practice results in serious malnutrition, signs of which include a crooked gait and the development of a parrot-like call that sounds like JOSEPH WAS A PROPHET! JOSEPH WAS A PROPHET!

The Garment back is naturally polygamous but its remarkable ability to adapt to most environments means it is perfectly capable of a monogamous life-style when the social mores of its adopted environment prove hostile to polygamy. Indeed this remarkable bird is quite capable of disguising many of its natural characteristics in its efforts to fit in, and it is not always easy at a glance to tell a Garment back from a Cross back. The telltale signs are there, however, for the careful observer.

The Garment back is given to much preening, especially the male of the species, and is often seen carrying itself in a stiff and upright posture, from which assumed height it gives the distinct, if comical, appearance of looking down on other creatures. It is often disadvantaged in this practice which frequently causes it to fall flat on its face, especially when confronted with a bird that is naturally taller, as are many Cross backs.

The female Garment back is very much a home bird, spending a good deal if its time with its young. Although it gives the appearance of involvement in the wider community it is often too busy with a large brood of chicks for long-term commitments and leaves the development of the community to the male. It is easily identified by its prodigious breeding capacity, its world-weary expression, and its modest plumage, which makes it sometimes look like the familiar Secretary bird. The female’s preoccupation with nest building and maintenance is evidenced by a type of quilted appearance to its habitat. It is also distinctive by its instinct for storing food, much like a squirrel.

The Garment back is constantly taking furtive glances over its shoulders looking for all the world as if it expected the hand of judgement to fall at any moment. This results from a lack of assurance about where it is bound and whether it is all worth it after all it can do. This obvious lack of assurance is a dead give away. By contrast, the Cross back has a confident walk and looks for all the world as if guided by some inner homing instinct. Perhaps a loose comparison can be made between the Garment back and the penguin, and the Cross back and the pigeon.

Garment backs can sometimes develop a curiosity about the colonies in which they find themselves. However they do fly in tight formation, insisting that each member of the colony maintain a strict discipline. Stragglers, and those who indulge their curiosity, are dealt with severely and either brought quickly back into line or banished so as not to infect the rest. They can be badly hurt by the experience and often are targets for the other call common to the Garment back. APOSTATE! APOSTATE! Fortunately the Cross back seems to have a natural instinct for adoption and it is curious to see all sorts of waifs and strays taken into the Cross back colony.

SPC, the Society for the Preservation of the Cross back, is a worldwide organisation dedicated to the development of Cross back colonies around the world. Together with SAtGAR, Save the Garment back, it works tirelessly to end the silent suffering of millions of Garment backs and help them fully assimilate into a healthy Cross back society. Please give generously of your prayers and make a commitment today to care for the Cross back and never to pass a Garment back on the other side but bring it to a place of healing and wholeness.

Thank you

The Original First Presidency (Peter, James, John)

No comments: