Camera Shy

“They are smart,” said my wife the Beautiful AP. “This can’t be just coincidence.”

I agreed with her. We were talking about Hooded Mergansers but such applies to almost all birds. They are smart.

Too many ornithologists come down on the side of birds just being creatures of instinct with no real intelligence. My wife and I have two parrots and let me tell you, they are both intelligent. In fact, more often than not, they outsmart me. Their goal in a day is to manipulate me; my goal is to be left alone so I can do my work. They often – quite often – win.

I guess you can say that for the Beautiful AP and for me, birds have passed our version of the Turing Test. This test was created by Alan Turing to determine if a being were actually intelligent or just a machine of some kind.

According to Turing, if a machine responds as if it were intelligent, then indeed it is intelligent. Anyway that’s what Turing’s test tries to show. I’ve just extended it to animals and birds. I agree that there are instincts (or unconscious programs) but intelligence is there, in some cases (as in parrots) that intelligence is pretty high. I assume other animals pass the Turing Test too. I am not saying animal/bird intelligence is equivalent to human intelligence; just that those minds are working.

“So why can’t I ever get Hooded Mergansers?” AP whined.

She was right. Every time we saw Hooded Mergansers they were always on the other side of the lake. We’d then walk around the lake – even a far walk – and as soon as we got to where the Hooded Mergansers had been, those rotten birds were now on the side of the lake from where we just came.

This didn’t happen just once or twice but multiple times in multiple places both on Long Island and in Cape May. Come on, they had to know they were busting the Beautiful AP’s chops. Maybe these birds had some kind of psychic connection to each other as in, “That dumb photographer is heading to Cape May from Long Island. Let’s screw around with her as our LI brethren have done. Awk! Awk!” (“Awk! Awk!” is the derisive laugh of birds.)

Next, we have a couple of Cardinals who come to our three feeders quite often. Cardinals are magnificently colored creatures; red as red can be – the males that is. The females are far plainer, but still quite pretty.

But the Beautiful AP cannot get a picture of this magnificent male bird. He will be on the feeder, beaking his food, when AP positions the camera to capture him in all his glory and then – the stinking bird will scoot over to the other side of the feeder where he can’t be seen.

“Damn! Damn it!” says AP.

The bird now peaks its head around the feeder at her. You can see it looking at her. But as soon as she lifts the camera, Mr. Cardinal scoots around back again. This does not happen with the host of Sparrows, the many Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Grackles, Mourning Doves, Tufted Tit Mice, and Black Capped Chickadees. These birds just eat and swiftly fly away when a cat crouches to kill them. No, just those miserable male Cardinals play this nerve-wracking game.

When the Cardinal was in a bush or tree, every time she lifted the camera, the damn bird would scoot behind a leaf, a branch, a feeder – anything to hide himself.

No one should ever think a bird’s brain is just a birdbrain.

AP is undeterred. She plans to have an exhibit of her bird photos in less than a year and vows to have great shots of Cardinals, Hooded Mergansers and other smarty-pants birds in the display. If I know my wife, she will prevail.

“’You must do the things you think you cannot do,’” AP said thunderously, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt.

I could be a smarty-pants myself. “’I can resist anything but temptation,’” quoting Oscar Wilde.  Then I poured myself a drink.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

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