The other morning the older of our two indigent boarders noticed a “black thing” near the swingset. Closer examination revealed a decapitated robin. Good morning, happy spring! I’m guessing a neighborhood cat was giving vent to some spleen. Today this gruesome sight will serve as introduction to today’s post on these winged garden terrorists.
Bird watching was not a popular past time for serfs and peasants. They favored drinking hooch or forming angry pitch fork and torch weilding mobs. Presumably birds were either food or ate their food. This doesn’t foster a loving relationship.
When people moved to cities then to suburbs, birds became “nature.” Like much of nature, birds were therefore interesting and scary.
When you get a chance to get up close and personal with a bird, they can be a bit odd looking. A chicken’s foot looks like the dinosaur foot that it evolved from: scaly and with nasty looking claws. Their eyes are distinctly different from mammal eyes. They can be a bit creepy.
Mostly I find birds to be fascinating. Few seem really well suited to do the obvious sort of locomotion on the earth: walk around on it. They fly, they swim, they waddle. Sure some walk and even run , but most of them fit into a niche not taken up by mammals. They’re also often colorful and make funny noises.
My parents have caught the birding bug and carry around binoculars that require a strap over both shoulders to avoid strain. They also feed them several thousand calories a day. Because of the bears in their part of New Hampshire they have to carry the feeders our every morning and in every evening. Not just calories, but service.
But I’m a gardener and that sets me up for a different relationship with birds. There are certainly my allies who eat bugs. Yay bird friends! But there are some that wish to steal my food. They probably don’t even know it is my food. Stupid birds! Robins and starlings are particularly guilty in this area. Since starlings are an introduced species, I feel I can dislike them with impunity when I’m wearing my gardening boots.
I am writing this now because the little beasts eat my peas every spring. Perhaps I should have mounted that decapitated robin on a poleaxe in front of the peas. They don’t even wait until the peas have grown fruit, they just pick at the little seedlings. Last year I managed to eat about 10 peas total because my first crop was decimated by birds. So what to do?
There are a few strategies for dealing with birds: loud recorded noises like bird distress sounds (tend also to bother neighbors), fake owls, big orange eye balloons (have to be moved around a lot), scarecrows (don’t work for long and lack brains), physical barriers (also makes it hard to harvest), varmint guns (again not a good idea in a neighborhood), and flashing shiny noisy things. I could employ Lady Gaga.
Ignoring all of this I first tried plastic bags.
That was a bit silly. So I bought a roll of flashy tape. I strung some line over the pea beds and tied lengths of foil to it. I haven’t seen any birds in there yet, but I’m not watching all the time. I’m feeling hopeful. I will have to let you know how the experiment goes.
This evening I noticed the first couple of pea seedlings forcing their way out. I gave the stink eye to the starlings loitering near by trying to cadge cigarettes.