Today when I was outside at lunchtime I noticed a black cat walking along the edge of a fence near where I was sitting. It hadn't seen me and it was moving along in the classic cat style where it would take a few steps and then pause and look around before continuing on it's trajectory.
I remembered what one of my mentors of bird language said to a group of people that had joined to study the birds on a property in California. He said that one of the biggest mistakes people make when they see a predator that causes a alarmed disturbance in the landscape is to focus on the predator.
It's a natural response because the predator is the center of attention but he said that in those moments, the best thing you could do to learn more about the bird language is to look around and send your ears out to notice everything else that's happening in response to the predator.
I've been amazed in the past when I've seen a hawk and managed to pull myself away from the excitement of the moment to take in everything else that's going on in the scene. It's incredible how much I miss when I focus in on the predator, and how much more I learn about bird language when I stretch my senses to everything else in the landscape around the hawk.
So this is exactly what I did with the cat. I moved my eyes to watch it only peripherally and checked for signs of any bird alarms in the area. I remembered the response that I've seen around cats on this property in the past but with this cat, there was absolutely nothing. No response. No Alarms.
Maybe the birds aren't active in that area at this time of day?
Maybe the birds don't feel threatened by this particular cat?
I have a few theories for why sometimes cats cause lots of alarming and intense excitement while at other times they seem to elicit no response. In order to answer this question I need to watch this particular cat more often.
But the one thing I did notice was a little chipmunk. As the cat slinked out of sight into the bushes a chipmunk bounded out of the forest from the opposite direction moving towards the cat and made a few sharp calls. Brief but distinct. Then it was quiet.
A few more seconds went by and it resumed it's alarms but this time in a way that I hear very regularly on this property. If you know the Eastern chipmunk then you've probably heard their alarms that repeat over and over again sometimes getting faster, sometimes slower. I've always wondered if these calls were actually alarms but today was the first time I had any sort of concrete evidence.
I can't count the number of times when I've heard those alarms and discounted them because of their isolation from any other alarms yet here I was watching this chipmunk alarm in this very fashion all alone as looked towards the direction where the cat had gone.
It taught me that no matter how many times you see an alarm in action, there's always deeper and more subtle layers to pick up on. I'll keep my eyes out for more lessons from this black cat and let you know what I discover.
Thanks for reading!