Jul 6, 2009

Bird Puppies Tour de France

Merlin Tour de France SunflowersMerlin’s mourning doves have returned to Chez Merlin. Last spring they landed in the trellis against the backyard window, dropped a few sticks and called it a nest. Merlin watched with great interest as they strutted about his patio, helping themselves to his backyard water dish. Doves do coo, and loudly. They also make a wonderful cooy fluttering wing whistle when they take flight. Merlin, being a herder not a hunter, invented a game where he makes a quick huff at them, sending them skyward. When informed there would be baby bird puppies, he sat down to wait. Puppies are to be tolerated because they are young, vulnerable, clumsy, and don’t know any better yet. We tolerate their milk teeth nipping our ears. So Merlin switched channels to Bird TV, watching without interference.

Specialized WheelsJuly is Tour de France month at Merlin’s house. We watch the three week epic bicycle Race of Truth, time shifted from its 5 am start. It’s a chess game of individual athletes and team tactics. TV crews on motorcycles whiz through the French countryside as helicopters sweep overhead sending dazzling images from Provence hill towns through the Alps and Pyrenees to the finish in Paris on the Champs-Élysées. We note places to visit. The early live version features the nonpareil team of Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling, and Paul Sherwen, who’s British accented knowledge, wit, and commentary are legendary. Plus, they pronounce everything properly. They put us right in the chase car and after 3 or 4 hours of strategy, breakaways, catches, and sprints, we’re bouncing up and down on the couch cheering, allez, allez, allez!

Merlin Bird PuppiesThe doves laid two white eggs when we sat down to begin the Tour last July. Dove dad sits from morning to afternoon, mom evening and night. The devoted pair watching us watching the Tour, probably thinking we were sitting on our nest- couch potato eggs. Some time in the Pyrenees the eggs hatched and tiny heads peeked up waving for food. The dove parents took turns feeding them as they grew through the Camargue.

Merlin Bird PupOne night, Merlin barked around 3 am. A dark lump on the patio flashlit revealed a bird puppy chick, not moving but alive. Merlin dog dad, Martin, was roused and tasked to return it to the nest. As the bird puppy was plopped back on the bed of sticks, mom fluttered off. Doves need sunlight to navigate and we feared both chicks would now freeze. Mom couldn’t find the nest in the dark and left. Dispirited, we went back to bed with a plea to Saint Francis of Assisi, protector of animals. By the time the cyclists were back on the road at 5:30 am, the doves had returned and all was well. Over the next few weeks the chicks strengthened their wings, flapping bravely through the Alps.

Merlin Water Dish Bird Bath One morning the nest was empty. Merlin walked slowly to the edge of the patio where the two bird puppies were settled under a bush. Bird brains! We set out water and birdseed as they waited for dove room service. They hung around a few more weeks, well past Paris.

We were delighted when the dove parents and grown bird puppies returned this spring. The trellis is gone, puzzling them. Surely this is Chez Merlin, home of plenty of fresh water, bird seed tree, giant cyclops guardian (telephoto lens), nighttime bird return service. Dog dad Martin customized a wooden box from the garage and nailed it below the window. No bird puppies would fall out of this nest! The doves inspected and claimed the box and a Merlin Art Works Wheelssingle chick was up and away before the equinox. Not to leave us alone on our couch nest, a second clutch was started and two chicks bobbed along with the Tour de France theme music this week. They’ll watch us watch Lance Armstrong return to the Tour. As strategies and dramas unfold, we cheer human excellence and endurance across nationalities.
Live strong. Viva la Tour.

Cyclists, Tour de France 2008: 2,174 miles
Bird Puppies: 8 feet


Linda McCabe said...

The tour was fabulous this year.

I was saddened by the withdrawl of Levi Leipheimer and Oscar Pereiro due to injuries, but thankfully it appears as if there were no drug scandals at all.

I was surprised but delighted when I saw that one of the stage finishes was in Saint Fargeau, but even though I scoured the televised coverage I did not see anything of Guedelon. Not even helicopter sightings of that grand project.

BTW, this year I noticed that Bob Roll's pronunciations have gotten better. I don't think I heard him say Tour Day France once.

Cindy Pavlinac said...

Yes, I was shocked to see our local Levi crash out of the Tour, especially since his team was barred from the Tour last year, despite winning other races all over Europe, and California. If Levi had finished in Paris this year the podium might have looked a bit different...

I was also miffed that George Hincapie missed the yellow jersey by 5 seconds, a long overdue color for him. He rode injured to lead out Mark Cavendish to win on the Champs-Élysées, a fabulous finish. And Lance missed the yellow by .001 second in the team time trial. So close, and they're old guys!

I emailed our American friend in Guedelon to say we'd be watching for her. She said waved at the helicopters. I told her we waved at the TV. I too was looking forward to the Tour view of the castle-in-process and don't know how they missed it! Another nudge to get my photos online.