Photograph by Allan Murphy
A bird of unrecognized species appeared on the ledge just outside the window. He had a large seed in his beak, which it didn't look like he could swallow, but he probably knew what he was doing. The cat, Cosette, spotted him and went crazy as cats do in the presence of birds. Cosette tried to attack and knocked her head on the window glass, the bird regally ignoring her.
The ancient Romans, clever as they were at engineering, war, and law, attached great importance to divination through birds (among other things). Type of bird; pattern, height, and direction of flight; where the bird would alight to rest; pitch of the bird's call -- the augur, or reader of omens, would take them all into account. Despite the odd skeptic like Lucretius and Cicero, Romans were ridiculously superstitious.
But it's understandable to me that they would find birds to be significant as signs. Birds seem to have an importance that exceeds their size. Especially when there is something unusual about them, like our visitor.
After the bird had strutted around for a bit and left for parts unknown, my wife went online to identify him. It turned out to be a tufted titmouse, described as follows:
A little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse is common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders. The large black eyes, small, round bill, and brushy crest gives these birds a quiet but eager expression that matches the way they flit through canopies, hang from twig-ends, and drop in to bird feeders. When a titmouse finds a large seed, you’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill.
Let's take our little avian as a good omen for all of us in 2012.
A happy new year to you.