The house I grew up in, Up North, was situated at the end of a dead-end street, out near what, in those days, counted as the edge of town. There were no other houses within a block of ours, and our back yard was bordered on two sides by what could only be honestly described as a swamp. In one corner of the yard was a mountain ash tree, the kind with the little orange berries. For most of the summer, the tree would be liberally speckled with orange berries, which made for a colorful splash in that corner of the yard.
Now, birds (mostly robins and blue jays) loved those little orange berries, and would come from far and wide to descend on our yard in order to partake of their orange-y goodness. And throughout the summers, the, uh, bird-lime that was splatted around our yard (and on our cars, and house, and back porch, etc) had a distinctly orange-ish hue, sometimes containing the stems and other accoutrements of the birdly-eaten berries.
The birds usually kept the berries eaten to a degree that meant that, by summer's end, the berries were gone, and the tree wasn't producing any more of them. In the fullness of time, the leaves fell, and the following spring, the cycle commenced anew.
One summer, though, the berries lingered into the early fall. I don't know if the birds were otherwise occupied that summer, or if the tree put out a particularly abundant berry crop that year, but September came, and there were still berries on the tree, where, in a typical year, there were none.
Then suddenly, one day, a massive flock of birds descended on our yard and denuded the tree of its remaining berries. The berries, however, having remained on the tree so much longer than usual, had begun to, uh, ferment. In fact, they were well-advanced in the process of fermentation. And so, by afternoon, we were treated to one of the most bizarre spectacles I've ever witnessed in my young life, which has gone down in family lore as The Day of the Drunken Birds.
Dozens of birds were reeling and stumbling around our back yard, staggering sideways, hopping on one leg, trying desperately to keep (or regain) their balance, like something out of a Red Skelton skit. I was still a couple years away from heading to college, but, in retrospect, it was reminiscent of last call at a college-town bar. Birds were bumping into each other, knocking each other down, and struggling to regain their feet with indifferent success. A few of them tried to take flight, but they simply couldn't get their wings and tail-feathers working together, and they would careen sideways, a foot or two off the ground, until they crashed awkwardly back onto the lawn, somersaulting a couple times before coming to rest. I didn't witness it first-hand, but I'm sure that, scattered around the yard were numerous small puddles of worm-scented bird-puke.
By evening, a few, maybe half, had recovered enough to have moved on, but our yard was still scattered with several comatose, semi-comatose and near-comatose birds. Some were just lying there, awake, their wings splayed out from their bodies on the ground, staring with glazed eyes off into the sky. Others were asleep, dozing off their unplanned bender. If my mom had been inclined to serve robin for dinner, marinated in ash-berry wine, we could have invited company and had enough to go around.
By the next morning, they were gone (perhaps amazingly, I saw no evidence that any of the neighbors' cats had come marauding overnight). I smile to imagine them, one by one, drifting groggily awake, shaking their heads to clear the fog, wondering what the hell had happened to them, complaining about how loud the damn crickets were chirping, then taking weary flight while promising themselves, "never again. . ."