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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

COUNTRY LIVING: BUGS, BIRDS AND POSSUMS

junebug



June bugs are bashing themselves against the window panes. They fall to the ground and eventually upright themselves, then fly into the air again. They don't seem to have any directional intuition. They just fly. They hit whatever they hit. It flies into the lamp when one gets in the house and falls to the floor under the lamp. Fly into the air again and hit the wall, drop to the floor, fly again, hit the wall again, drop to the floor. When I get tired of it, I'll pick one up and put it outside so it can bash its face into the glass some more. Very primitive mind. They're like turtles when they land on their backs. They're pitiful, those skinny insect legs grasping at air, but they do what they're designed to do, whatever that is. They're thick and I suspect one would make a good snack for a possum. This afternoon I heard tap-tap-tap on the glass. Turned and looked to the window the sound was coming from. A big yellow and black swallowtail butterfly. I captured it in cupped hands giving it room to flop and flutter without hurting its wings. I don't like to take hold of their wings, because little feather-like fuzz rubs off onto my fingers. I figure they need it like birds need feathers. It flew straight up when I let it go outside the door.

tufted titmouse, photo by tony northrop
 


Earlier, I'd opened a window about half way to let air flow through the house. I know better than that. It wasn't long I heard a titmouse fluttering in the kitchen window, on the inside. Usually, I open the door and walk the bird toward the door and use a broom handle with the broom at the far end, encouraging the bird away from the window it's going nuts in, toward the door, the way one guides cows with a long pole. The broom works well. With myself, the length of the stick and the broom head, I close off conceptually for the bird anyplace to go but out the door. Sometimes, when one is especially difficult to encourage out the door, I'll stop trying, sit down for awhile or go to another room, let the bird settle down, get its heart rate down. When the bird is calm I clap my hands once and it flies out the door. In that time, I suppose the bird has time to figure out the situation. This titmouse today would not leave the window. Up and down, up and down. I'd corner it and catch it in both hands, gently not to hurt the wings, and it would slip out of my hands like a fish. The fourth time I caught it I put a hand over its head so it couldn't see, or escape. Birds calm down when they can't see. I carried her to the door with a hand over her head, and feeling her heart thumping in the hand that held her. Out the door she flew up to a branch above the birdfeeder. She was at home. She looked back at me recognizing the giant that feeds them every day.

possum dinner


Three possums live under the house, Posie, Rosie and Nosey. Almost every evening I put out a bowl of dry catfood for whichever one finds it first. It's my way of welcoming them. They eat mice. I have no mice in the house. I despise putting out decon for a host of reasons, the worst being the smell when the mice crawl inside the wall and die. In those times all I know to do is get used to it. The scent will eventually fade away like the scent of skunk roadkill after you've passed over it. I am grateful to the possums. I like to give them some food. I'll put out a bowl of dry catfood just before dark and it's soon gone. Caterpillar quit capturing mice years ago. She's an old cat now. She lies outside in the sun, lies still like a gray rock and watches the birds. Before the possums, when a mouse crossed the floor, Caterpillar watched. I can't have more cats because Caterpillar would hate them, and I don't want to do that to her. Now that I'm cultivating birds, it's not a good time to have young cats. Something I have never understood is somebody with outdoor cats who feeds birds. "I like to see the birds." So does the cat. There are a lot of cats that kill several birds a day. More and more, people are keeping cats indoors, a relief for the bird populations. Caterpillar has known the possums the whole time they've lived here. She has no issues with them, nor do they with her. We all live in peace here. Possums keep the snakes away from the house too. I really like that. Keeping snakes away is what dogs and cats are good for in the country. Caterpillar has retired from the killer side of her catness.

lurking cement cat



If any of the possums is outside snacking around in the birdfeeding area when I go out the door, they'll take a slow walk to the cathole where they come and go under the house. I'm glad they don't panic when they see me. They know I'm friendly. They know I feed them and the birds and squirrels. I don't want to tame the possums so they'll not run when they see me. I don't imagine it would be good for a possum to be unafraid of humans. The world of the four-leggeds know humans kill them. I know the word goes from doe to fawn, if one of the humans sees you, you're dead--they can kill you just by seeing you. They hide in trees so you can't see them. When you smell one, run. In my little spot in the hollow of Air Bellows Mountain, I've let the ground around the house grow up in rhododendron and trees, ferns, rocks; let it go back to forest. The ground here around the house had the topsoil scraped off by a bulldozer. It was clay when I came here. I set out to build up topsoil. With all the trees now, year after year of leaves, I have a good layer of topsoil. Wild violets cover the ground in spring, then the jewel weed that brings hummingbirds. Millions of bird droppings are adding nutrition to the soil. I'm satisfied that this wounded earth around the house is healed by now. A lot of people think nobody lives here because it's so grown up. I keep it looking bad from the road. When I park the car, I step under the canopy when I walk toward the house. It is immediately refreshing, relaxing like walking in the woods. Hearing the chickadees, the titmice, the towhees, the doves in the distance, it feels just right to call this home.

squirrel in the birdfeeder
 
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2 comments:

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