Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dairy Queen and Seagulls

Yep, Spring is definitely on its way. The two surest signs of an impending Spring are the re-opening of the Dairy Queen and the miraculous re-appearance of the seagulls. Miraculous because the seagulls reappear literally within 5 days of the Dairy Queen re-opening for the season, regardless of when they re-open.

The Dairy Queen is owned and operated by a local mom and her children. She closes every year for about three months to "spend time with the kids that isn't making burgers or ice cream". Pretty noble really, but also economically smart too. In the Summer months people have been known to take the Scenic Highway drive out to our little town just to stop by Dairy Queen. In the winter there are fewer residents in town and the roads limit the amount of Sunday driving one is willing to do, no matter how good the food or friendly the service.

The Dairy Queen usually closes around Halloween and re-opens again sometime in late Winter. Some years it opens as early as February 28th while other years she stays closed until March 21st. Regardless of what day the shop opens two things are guaranteed to occur. The shop will be packed, cars lined up down the street, on the first Friday it is open. The second, and in my mind the most interesting, is the seagulls return within five days of the opening of Dairy Queen.

I've been convinced that birds must have some extra sensory perception when it comes to food for years now. There won't be a bird anywhere in the yard but they start gathering on the outskirts as soon as I start filling the bird feeders. Like the shadows of werewolves gathering around lost teenagers in B-grade horror movies, the birds start gathering in little groups of twittering, peeping, chirping, and whistling waiting for the fateful moment when I fill the last feeder and return indoors.

The reappearance of the seagulls in co-ordination with the re-opening of the Dairy Queen reinforces the belief in some form of food sense in birds. They start appearing overnight in small groups of six to ten birds. Within a few days, of the first seagull sighting, the flock will have grown from a few adults to dozens of adults and year old chicks. You never see them winging in formation like the migrating geese, they just appear hovering around the parking lot waiting for scraps to be tossed out. As the season progresses they start sleeping in large colonies on the roofs of local businesses and start making pilgrimages inland to the municipal dump.

At the end of season, and with the closing of Dairy Queen, the seagulls disappear as quickly as they appeared. The majority disappearing in the night, leaving behind a few stragglers which are usually the summer chicks all grown up but not quite sure about leaving what has proved to be a source of food all their young lives. Soon they too disappear only to return the following year, bringing Spring along with them.

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