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Monday, December 10, 2012

A SAFE ZONE FOR BIRDS


            red squirrel

This evening's film, Jane's Journey, put me in a somewhat pensive mood. Wanting to get to some painting, wanting to open the laptop and write to you, needing to get up and refill the cup with Kenyan coffee and put a bowl of dry catfood outside the door for the possum. Possum comes by after dark for leavings. Initially, I put Caterpillar's unfinished "wet" food of the day outside next day for Martha the dog or Posie the possum, whichever found it first. If Martha didn't drop by during the day, Posie found it after dark. A gravel parking place across the road I shower with sunflower seeds in the mornings for the crows and whoever else wants them. By the end of the day the seeds are all consumed; at night Posie goes about eating the shells the birds discarded for the seed inside. A pair of red squirrels, also known as pine squirrels, live in a white pine close to the house. They run the ridge of the roof to a pine limb, then another pine limb, down the pine to the ground by one of the birdfeeders. I throw sunflower seeds on the ground for the squirrels so they won't have to raid the birdfeeder. At first, I wanted them squirrel proof, but found if I feed the squirrels too, they don't raid the birdfeeders. Originally, the birdfeeders were closed up by a plexiglas storage bin for seeds that the coon, whose territory includes my space, would break into at night, throw the roof off and get the leftover seeds.

Seeing there was no way I could keep the coon away except by trapping it, not an option, I decided to forget about the feeders holding several days of seeds, dismantled the seed bin and left an open space with the tray at the bottom to put two kinds of sunflower seeds in every morning, enough for the birds and the squirrels to consume in one day. Every morning the 2 birdfeeders are empty and I don't have to latch the lids anymore. I put hooks at both ends of the roof to keep hard wind, coons and squirrels from throwing it off so much. Wind is the only force the hooks work for. Squirrels and coons have no problem with hooks. They have hands like ours with claws for fingernails to help them climb trees and fight. Between the birdfeeders is a huge rhodedendron where I throw a fistful of seeds as high into the air as I can throw and let them sift down through the leaves to the ground. This gives the bluejays, the bullies of the birds because they're the biggest--the law of the jungle, a place to peck around on the ground and let smaller birds have the feeder. And the other way around; when bluejay is at the feeder, smaller birds peck on the ground. None of them are particular about feeder or ground for picking up seeds; the seed is all they want. Also, the seeds are spread evenly over a large enough area under the rhododendron that several birds can peck about and stay out of another bird's pecking range.

So it costs me a little bit a month for the seeds and allowing for the "mauraders" who are not bandits if I put something down for them too. About daily, a red squirrel will step inside the birdfeeder shelter, sit there with tail curled nibbling at the seeds. This happens after the seeds on the ground have run out; they're available to the birds too. This miniature forest out my front door between the house and the road has enough small trees with branches and rhododendron growing that hawks don't have a chance. I saw out the window a Cooper's hawk fly to the ground and stand surveying with a hawk's eye the obstacles for big wings that inhibit maneuvering. Another time I saw a beautiful gunmetal blue sparrow-hawk fly into the wooded zone and sit on the ridge of one of the birdfeeders, it too surveyed the obstacle course. The hawks flying into this zone cannot fly with abandon, it slows them down and distracts their focus of attention. The birds feeding all fly away the moment a hawk enters the wooded zone. The small birds can fly through the tree limbs with ease. All escape.

I love to watch them out the window, especially knowing my birds and squirrels are safe. I love having a pair of squirrels that amount to the same as hawk fodder, a lifespan of about a year, because hawks evidently get them all. This pair of red squirrels live successfully inside this zone that's hawk proof. It's been a year that I've been seeing them. I understand the environmentalist principle that feeding the critters influences them away from the grains they'd otherwise eat. It also turns out to be responsible for bird overpopulation of a given area beyond what can sustain them without people feeding birds. It's not like the birds are immortal. The seeds I feed them are healthy for them, seeds they can't find in their "natural environment." What about all the birds in the days when farms grew fields of grains to feed the horses, picking up the remains of the harvest from farm to farm? Following farming used to sustain huge bird populations, though the way monoculture farming is done now, it's death to the birds with chemicals that poison the bugs the birds eat. I'm not doing that. In fact, I'm not unbalancing anything. Even here in the mountains the human element is eradicating the birds as fast as it can be done. That doesn't strike me as natural balance.

The so-called natural world is so far out of balance that giving birds a safe place to have their choice of two sizes of sunflower seeds puts a miniscule spot of the planet into a little bit of balance for a short space of time. The more they eat here, the less they'll eat in the christmas tree fields 2/3 of the way around our safe zone. They sing to me spring and summer. This spot of ground was not a good haven for birds before I let the seedlings grow into saplings then trees and planted rhododendron, small ones dug up from the woods years ago. The so-called natural world is under assault by the human population responsible for a high rate of extinctions hourly around the globe for more than half a century. Assault is a gentle word for what is happening to the critters and to us, we the meat people.  Is that a healthy planet? Duh. Is that even a question? When everything living dies off, it will be too late to build a rocket to some moon of Saturn or into another solar system. The part I really don't get, and am afraid of going so far into a jaundiced point of view to get it, is why the human people who have been to college (corporate execs in skyscrapers = ivory towers) keep on with the destruction. The answer, though, is obvious as 1+1, even if you want to make it 11. Money is the only purpose. The only. It's gone so far by now the evidence is everywhere it's too late to turn around the mega-force in unstoppable motion until the house of cards skyscraper, after taking over our government, collapses of it's own too-big-to-fail. What comes next we've yet to see.

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