I can't stop thinking about guineahens. I went to visit my friend Jeremy who has quite a crowd of them living in his garden. He's made a house for the girls, as he calls them, with a gangplank and fencing, and a door that closes at night so that they are safely tucked in. To his surprise, three of them have nested in the little house, laid eggs, and are now sitting on them, refusing to budge. (I don't know why that would surprise him, I mean, they are feathering their nests, right?) Guineafowl make the most charming noises all the time; they're either clucking madly or sort of chuckling in this enchanting, liquidy way. And those feathers! When I was a child I found an old hat at the back of a closet. It had belonged to my grandmother, and tucked into its side were a few of the most surprisingly polka-dotted feathers. I thought they were magical, and I couldn't begin to imagine the kind of bird they belonged to. I was stunned when, years later (actually not so long ago) I saw the feathers on their rightful owners. Extremely chic. The hens stroll about the lawns, eating ticks, and being alternately useful, sociable, skittish, and, well, peckish. In my own garden, I've been hearing all sorts of strange sounds, particularly when I weed near the stone wall. This afternoon I flushed a ringneck pheasant out--I don't know which one of us was more startled. He was brightly handsome, a real dandy; he sailed off a few feet and then, as if mortified to have been caught off guard, he cooly strutted away. This is the time of the year to find all sorts of little eggshells lying about; yesterday's treasure was half a blue robin's egg. Safe flights, little ones!
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