Ode to a Pheasant

“See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs, And mounts exulting on triumphant wings”

Alexander Pope Quotes , Source: Windsor Forest (l. 111)

bird

I cannot say for certain when I first made his acquaintance or tell you the exact day he stole my heart.  We had just moved to a small town in Connecticut from New York City following the 9/11 tragedy.  Our new home’s family room sported an enormous glass window which overlooked the back yard, a spectacular bucolic setting of manicured jade green grass, magnolia trees and a pond, all bordering a 200 acre nature preserve.  I was growing accustomed to the ubiquitous deer and red fox sightings but  had never before encountered a pheasant and was not prepared for the effect his physical appearance bestowed, both in brilliance and beauty.

His presence, generally either early morning or late afternoon, was always announced by a loud and strange-sounding squawk, echoing eerily through the landscape. I grew to love this sound.  Emerging from the tall hedges of the nature preserve he would strut and bob in all his splendor, slowly cruising the yard, pecking and flapping his great wings in a display of cockiness and valor.

I often pondered from where this lovely creature came.  Was he an exotic pet from some grand estate who had fled to explore new pastures? Or perhaps a restless migrant in search of a mate? I researched the presence of pheasants in Fairfield County Connecticut and discovered that these fascinating birds were indeed not native to this area and rarely seen.   My research further allowed that wild pheasants only live approximately five years in the wild unlike raised pheasants which can live up to twelve years in captivity.  Our pheasant was chasing the years.

Sadly, the pheasant never did find a partner but instead took up with a group of wild turkeys who too frequented our property.   I would often see him among the pack, his brilliance a gem among the other gray birds.   The turkeys were a friendly lot and took him in with little fanfare.  I loved them for that.  I was pleased he had found companions though daydreamed about finding him a soul mate of his own, perhaps from some pheasant farm if that sort of thing existed. I imagined visiting, picking out a female pheasant and bringing it home. And like in a fairy tale they would live happily ever after and create for our town a whole new flock of pheasants for all to enjoy.

I longed to see him daily but as if sensing his importance he arrived only once or twice a week.  In an attempt to lure him closer, I bought a bag of wild bird seed and scattered them in a line, starting at the opening of the preserve from which he emerged and ending just inches from my bedroom window.  The very next morning, I heard him, louder than usual and realized with glee that the seed trail had worked.  He stood majestically, so close to my window that I could reach out and touch him and in that brief moment snapped his photograph which still hangs on my refrigerator and atop this story.

There was something about the beauty of the pheasant and his calm demeanor that somehow made everything so right even on those days that were not.  He became a fixture in the neighborhood and neighbors became proprietary. They began referring to him as “our pheasant” if he spent any amount of time on their property.  He became somewhat of a celebrity in our small town.

When he went missing for sometimes weeks at a time, he became a topic of concern. I would see a friend in the local market and ask “Have you seen the pheasant.”?   I imagined putting posters on trees in the area with his photo and the simple word “Missing.”   No explanation necessary.

The pheasant enchanted us with his presence for over seven years, surviving hurricanes, snow storms and numerous predators.  After one particularly fierce winter storm I fancied making up a tee-shirt for him stating “I survived the blizzard of 2010” and sending his photo to our local newspaper to feature in their wildlife section.

Then one day as magically as he had appeared, the pheasant returned no more. It has been over a year now.  We no longer ask each other “Have you seen him?” There is an unsaid understanding among us. Nothing gold can stay.

Yet I still stare hard when I see the wild turkeys trotting by my window, hoping, praying for that glint of brilliant color amid the backdrop of the woods.

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13 thoughts on “Ode to a Pheasant

  1. okay – so you might be new most favorite of writers – ha! jk – but truly you write with finesse – and laughing at the “but instead took up with a group of wild turkeys who too frequented our property” – and this moving story of the neighborly bond that developed and the tug at your heart was told with succinct and choice words that moved me.

    It reminded me of only one similar story I have heard – an old friend used to live in the hick Louisa county here in VA. A stray kitten found her way to their back porch and when she told the story well she said “I and never bonded with an animal ever in my life” and she shared about the morning food she would put out. not sure what happened to either the cat or my friend- they moved to TX about year after that and sadly – we lost touch – but I always loved her story.

    and here – yours is extra rich because of the neighbors that also enjoyed this colorful present with the pheasants presence – and omgsh – the t-shirt for surveying the hurricane – smiling with that one. thanks again for the link here – I am the better for reading. take care

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  2. Cannot tell you how much your heart felt comment means to me! I loved that bird and didn’t get vey much feedback on story. The truth is I have been hiding in the Daily One Word photography Challenges on WP lately due to writer’s block and have to get back to what I love most, writing as I am no photographer. Thank you for the push I needed! And I love your stray kitten story. I look forward to visiting your blog. PS I too thought tee shirt visual was excellent 🙂

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  3. What a great story – I loved the topic and the writing. I, too, loved the part about the turkeys taking him in and how you loved them for that. Very sweet. I grew up in western PA where we had lots of pheasants and I agree that they are beautiful birds. (I also thought I followed this blog months ago, but it looks like I didn’t or I’ve messed up my reader settings … I look forward to more!)

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    1. This comment made me so happy! I really loved that story but sadly not many have read on wordpress and I just am delighted when I get feedback like I did from you today to know others appreciate. My dad LOVED the wild turkeys and would often call me to see if there were any on my property. He passed away several years ago but I always take it as a sign from him when I see a turkey! Thank you so much for visiting and I plan to review your blog as well a bit more when I have some free time. Have great evening!

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  4. I enjoyed reading about your pheasant. It reminded me of when, as a youth growing up in Northeast Washington State, my parents raised a variety of animals on their small 10-acre hobby farm, including a few turkeys. One summer, a peacock move in with our turkeys, and they welcomed into their flock, where he remained for about six months. We never knew from whence he came. We called him Fred Astaire, because he danced so beautifully for the turkey hens, who remained unimpressed by his flamboyant displays and loud calls. Like you, I imagined finding him a peahen, a mate of his own. One day he was just gone, leaving nothing but memories and a few colourful feathers.

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    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you for your comment and story of your peacock. Remarkably, I looked out my window yesterday and could not believe my eyes – another pheasant slowly strolling through the brush in my backyard! Not anywhere near as brilliant in color as the first but a true miracle as pheasants are not known to frequent this area. I took it as a sign, not sure what kind of sign but a sign nonetheless. My dad always loved wild turkeys and I sense his presence when I spot one around my property. I briefly visited your site “Thrumming Through Life” and can’t tell you how your thoughts echo mine so precisely. I am a thrummer!!! From the comfort of my home (I love the indoors and serenity) to my love of family. What a wonderful site. I plan to spend more time reading when I get a moment. Thank you for visiting and have a great day.

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