Standing tall in the afternoon sun
by Sidi J. Mahtrow
Woody waits for what's to be done.
Arriving on wings widespread
Expecting something extra for his daily bread.
Now with wings folded to conceal
Tips of black he will not reveal.
Unless to show off in love
Or war, in a graceful move.
Watching carefully to be assured
That his presence has been noted,
He's motionless as a statue of stone
His eyes take all in to be sure he's alone.
It's not necessary to move his head
While appearing to be looking straight ahead.
He has peripheral vision for the unwary
Frogs, fish or whatever that be his quarry.
Woody's here for another cause
His friend will soon provide food for his maw.
It's time and he must wonder how it is
That other animals can't tell time for this buis.
Their biological clock that sets the timing
Must be faulty when it's time for dining.
Woody's never minutes late
For this important meal time date.
Because of traffic, disputes or planning errors
Humans often spend too much time in cars.
But Woody soars above it all
Master of flight, in time for the dinner call.
As in times past
He is ready for the game's repast
It's played by rules established long ago
By the bird's appetite and man's ego.
The General, stands just inside the door
Holding the hot dog from the store
Not the best that money can buy
But for this friend, he'll get by.
A game of catch is what they play,
Yet the hot dog will only go one way.
Each plans his moves, selects his spot
Eyes the opponent, so goes the plot.
The treat must be cleanly caught
Or planning is for naught.
A toss is made within easy reach
Of fast extended neck and scissor beak.
Neck and beak move in concerted action
Catching the treat in time; just a fraction.
Then again into the air the dog's tossed
And down the hatch it goes; no motion lost.
Woody's had his treat for the day
And is gone in a jump, up - and away.
A spring of legs, with extended wings
A simple flap and he's airborne it seems.
Once again in the air so effortless
He circles once to set his compass,
Straight away to a distant place, away from here
Until tomorrow, same time and place for sure.
Is this the same bird as yesterday?
You can't be sure is all you can say.
All look the same in flight
Or on the ground, in day or night.
Woody II arrives at the appointed hour
When the sun is in descent from it's lofty tower.
Even'ng warns that feeding must be complete
With time to return to the roost to sleep.
Soaring above the ponds as the stork
Seeks out the special one to disembark.
Now depleted of water by the drying winds,
That have come with the passing seasons.
In a pool where he has fished many times before,
He knows what feast is in store.
Small minnows, shads, frogs and slimy things
Taste matters not, it seems.
Down the hatch they'll pass
As just a part of this day's catch.
Joining others in his craw
Where substance matters not at all.
As he flies in Florida's cloudless skies
Wide swept wings carry Woody as he flies.
Effortless on distinctive wings,
Black tips revealed on mostly white it seems.
Attention is called in space and time,
To this marvel of aerodynamic design.
Neck outstretched to steer the course,
Like swan, duck, egret or goose.
Silent; on his way he goes,
No feather flutter shows.
Not soaring on the wind,
Like buzzards and eagle kind.
But like the Sandhill crane,
Or Whooper of similar name.
On ward he goes, effortless,
Over his wings the wind flows.
He has a mission,
A target in the distance,
Where it's famine or feast
For this hunter's repast.
No wasted motion or
Riding thermals to soar.
Straight from point-to-point does he fly,
Before descending from the sky.
His landing has not the grace of swan.
Result's all that matter to this one.
A controlled crash as he landed,
Perhaps it's what he planned.
Taking a bit of a bounce as a light plane
Descending from the ether just the same.
Gangly legs absorb the shock
Hinged almost brokenly to prevent a flop.
On the ground he arranges his feathers
Not so much that appearance matters.
Carefully tucking wings to side
The black'd wing tips to hide.
Now standing erect on legs spindly,
They're double jointed which comes in handily.
Later when he's finished tasking,
He'll relax and take a pose, backward sitting.
With a face and neck that a mother bird
Could love, assuming she's a turkey buzzard
Long scissor beak useful for a grasp on
Creatures he desires to dine on.
While he waits he takes a stance,
Silently watching, as if in trance.
On one leg, the other drawn up and hidden
Displaying balance to those challenge smitten.
But more than likely in a clever feat
Woody III takes a front-row seat.
Legs fold differently from the rest
Permits him on his butt to rest
Or he sits like a goose concealing
A nest of eggs, to no one revealing.
His large body hides
His off-white yellowed underside.
Perhaps under wing, head tucked
He's unseeing like a sleeping duck.
If he can't see it, it isn't there
Of what goes about him, he has no care.
A headless feathered lump asleeping
While his metabolic clock's a ticking
Appearances matter to him not at all,
As passing time seems to stall.
Awakened, Woody goes ahunting.
Using a technique most cunning.
No problem with wading into the swamp,
His legs are long enough to protect his rump
Carefully in the shallows he moves forward,
Not disturbing critters in their wattery sward.
When in a likely spot,
He uses a method not soon forgot.
Lowering beak to just above the water,
For observation of the aqueous order.
Opens wide his scissor beak,
Ready to grasp subjects he seeks.
Eyeing the orchestra of fishes,
He's about to direct their performances.
Taking the Maestro's stance,
He'll lead them in their watery dance.
Standing on one foot as if to show,
Who controls the subjects down below.
He'll direct their final movement,
Setting the pace for their atonement.
With perfect balance he stands,
The other foot moves like a magic wand.
With a motion swift, then slow,
he begins to stir the water down below.
Any fish, frog or other disturbed creature,
Must seek refuge to ensure a future,
Before being seen by the beady eyes,
And caught in the beak, when escape it tries.
Balance can be lost or improved upon it seems,
By the occasional raising of Woody's wings.
They darkening the water over which he hovers,
And gives shadows for those seeking covers.
This motion most abrupt,
Perhaps cause the game to run amuck.
Making an attempt to escape,
Only to delay the fish's fate.
Now he walks back and fro,
Driving the water animals on the go.
He stops to repeat the one leg standing,
And repeats his concert-hall performancing.
Up go the wings,
Revealing the black under-things.
As he drives beak and head below,
To a minnow's flashy show.
Under the water's surface seeking fishes,
He sometimes captures, but often misses.
Again and again he tries this art,
Seeking a partner to play its part.
The performance end nears.
There's no time for cheers or tears.
Betwix the scissor blades a fish is caught,
And lifted high but not for naught.
With a motion too quick to follow,
The fish is turned for Woody to swallow.
Down the gullet it quickly moves,
Joining others, paying dues.
Success. But as Woody is quick to see,
The dropping sun will soon not be.
With a spreading of his wings,
He is in air, as if on springs.
Then through the cooling air,
He's off to spot I know not where.
But tomorrow unless it rains,
He'll return to begin the hunt again.
If minnows, frogs and snakes,
Do not adequate nutrition make,
Woody is not above taking from the hand,
Dog food, hotdogs, or viennas from the can.
Birders seek fowl in native places,
But forget birds are smarter in most cases.
They seek handouts every day,
Feeding is regular and they're here to stay.
Suburban yards are favored spots,
Begging for food from human louts.
Taking what's offered with no qualms,
Picture posing in return for alms.
General James Edmundson of Longboat Key provided some observations on a wood stork that came to depend on him for a daily hand-out. Woody would patiently wait for his treat when the General was late. He would take what was offered and then be off to parts unknown till the same time, next day.
Other storks 'ganged-up' on the neighborhood on Tanglewood Drive, numbering twenty or so. They patiently waited their dog-food feeding from a couple of old bachelors, either on the lawn or more preferably on the roof-top across the street. (The red-tiled roof soon became splotched with white.) Finally enough was enough and the feeding stopped, so the storks sought other handouts.
A solitary stork daily visits a small retention pond in an area off busy state road 60. Here he is master of all he surveys, and when the appointed time arrives, enters the water and begins his orchestrated conduction of a watery ballet
In flight the wood stork is a graceful as any of his better known brethren, but on the ground he is a tragic comedy in progress. Only when he enters his fishing mode does he regain his dignity and the seldom seen performance is without equal.