Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Tweet Retreat

Our little House Wren

Outside our dining room window thrives a small nature preserve.  All things wild flourish there.  My attempt at growing domesticated plants in the same soil and microclimate requires considerably more effort: fertilizing, watering, mulching, pruning, dividing and weeding.  Shwew…I’m tuckered out just making the list.

Shielding Brownie's eyes from the sun,
Ryan 'The Parasol' Uftring
Domestic creatures can be so demanding.  Inside our home, roosting in a bed of pine shavings, lays Brownie, our elderly guinea pig.  For four years, she has relied utterly on our care.  This refined rodent exhibits the discerning palate common to many species of domestics.  Any diversion from her preferences results in a chorus of loud, squeaky oinks.  Serving her from the bargain 8-pound-bag of hay pellets is considered treason.  If she can’t detect a dehydrated carrot or corn kernel in her food dish, she sounds the alarm.  And all those carrots and corn kernels create a lot of output, which must then be cleaned up, which brings me to my favorite low-maintenance pets: wild birds. 

I’m not sure which of my personality defects is most inclined to bird-watching: laziness or frugality.  There are no cages to clean.  No pine shavings to purchase.  If I forget to feed them, they simply fly somewhere else for lunch.  They don’t berate me with squawks and pecks.  And the view!  We literally have a rainbow of birds in our yard throughout the year.  Red Cardinals and purple Finches, orange-bellied Robins and flaming Baltimore Orioles, yellow Gold-finches, green iridescent Hummingbirds, bossy Blue Jays and sweet Indigo Buntings.

A few years ago, I couldn’t tell a chickadee from a sparrow.  My children would ask me to identify birds in the garden, and I was at a loss.  So, I purchased a small bird book.  You may have a similar manual in your house, just your run-of-the-mill bird field guide.  But yours isn’t the same as ours; not exactly.  Ours has been ‘accentuated’.  If you turn to our Eastern Bluebird page, you’ll find a picture of a dutiful mother, bringing breakfast to her young.  The bubble extending from her bug-bearing beak says, “This tastes gross.”  

The 2nd grade handwriting is one of several glaring clues that this commentary is not original to the book, but it does add a certain something to it.  On the Osprey’s page, a predatory bird glares down with the eyes of a skilled killer.  A curly mustache extends from either side of his beak, granting a little comic relief in the face of his clearly homicidal intentions.  But just to make sure you don’t take him too lightly, the mustachio-maker scrawled “I will eat you” beside his head.  If you’re now feeling a little underwhelmed with your lackluster ‘conventional’ bird book, I’m sure my adolescent artist would be willing to embellish it for a nominal fee. 

Aside from giving your children graffiti-prone material, why would you want birds around?  First and foremost, they’re fun to watch.  Hollywood’s red carpets don’t have anything on these flashy personalities. Decked in beautiful colors, they bear vivacious attitudes to boot. There are cowards and daredevils, lovebirds and bullies, selfless parents and selfish seed stealers.  A set of binoculars reveals miniature soap operas unfolding throughout our nature preserve.  Place feeders close to windows so you can watch the drama unfold all year long.

Secondly, they eat bugs!  Summertime in Illinois is the ideal environment to throw a BBQ party for bug-eaters (Bring Birdseed Quick).  Blue Indigos, barn swallows and purple martins will feast on the #1 summer pest: mosquitoes.  Also on the bird menu: grasshoppers, beetles, flies, grubs and aphids.  They won’t eradicate them completely from your yard, but they lend a threatening atmosphere that encourages pests to go elsewhere. 

Third, they educate.  This self-proclaimed birding blockhead can now differentiate between a Brown Thrasher and a House Wren.  My 92-year-old grandma stays sharp by trying to learn something new everyday.  Keeping our minds engaged and involved in the environment benefits us as well as the wild world we live in.  


Casa Mariposa said...

I'm right behind you in trying to figure out which bird is which. I have the basics down but that's about it. I love that your son is shielding Brownie's eyes. I spend a lot of time standing at the kitchen door watching the birds. It's calming, especially after a day with crazy 12 year olds. :o)

The Sage Butterfly said...

Great reasons to love birds. I love them for these reasons and so much more. They always fascinate me.

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