Front porch sitting a favorite pastime
Published 5:45 am Saturday, June 30, 2018
Now that winter is rearing its icy head, I am not one of those people who wax nostalgic about fireplaces and heating their homes with open fireplaces or wood/coal burning stoves or furnaces.
As regular followers of this column already know, one of my favorite, retirement pastimes is sitting on the front porch just after dawn and during the last couple hours of daylight to watch whatever critters, mostly birds, do whatever they happen to be up to.
As soon as it’s light enough to see really well, about 6:45 a.m. right now, there will be as many as half a dozen robins hopping around the yard hoping to find a night crawler that doesn’t realize the night is over. Said night crawler becomes breakfast and at least once or twice each week I am privy to the spectacle of a robin tugging on a stretched-out night crawler that almost got away. I never ceased to be amazed that one bird can swallow that much worm and keep on looking for another one. In fact, I’m amazed that the just fed bird can even fly before it’s had a bowel movement.
Blue birds are also early risers. While the house they nest in makes me look like a slum lord because it is literally falling apart and part of the roof is made of duct tape, the blue birds have called it home for nearly 20 years. I’m afraid the easily identifiable pair that used it for most of the last decade did not survive last winter and I like to hope that the current residents are their adult children.
The current residents have already hatched off three young ones that are now attempting to be helpful to Mama while she patiently waits for another brood to hatch. I’m afraid to peek inside to see how many eggs she has because that duct tape does not look like it has much utility left in it.
When the juveniles try to go back inside the nest box to check on mama, papa runs them off but it’s not unusual to see him fly down into the early morning yard to snatch a lightning bug that wore itself out while sparking away the previous night.
During the last half of May I watched both robin and brown thrasher adults teach their juvenile off-spring how to forage. The adults of both species will frequently catch a bug or worm and share it with their grown kid. And you have not truly witnessed pride in action until you’ve seen a robin parent watch his or her kid catch a night crawler without any help.
Longtime readers also know that I despise the starlings and grackles that used to cause me great misery and anxiety for the damage they did to my sweet corn. Now I take great satisfaction in the knowledge that stretching monofilament fishing line about 3 to 6 inches above a row of just planted corn will keep them from eating the seedlings and plain old Christmas tree icicles dangled in the tassels scares them away from destroying the ripe corn. Don’t laugh at me. It works!
If you can’t find icicles, there are dozens of vendors on eBay who sell reusable “bird scare tape.” It’s a glittery, shiny, reflective ribbon that seems to terrify flying rats and it is, by far, the best garden pest control trick I’ve ever learned. Simply run it through the tassels from one end of the row to the other and it’s instant bird be gone.
For many years I blamed the black flying rats, not only for the destruction they did to my corn but to my tomatoes as well. There are few things more disgusting than waiting for that first big ripe tomato and then finding that a bird has pecked several holes in it. And last year I discovered that the blame was misplaced.
The mater marauders turned out to be mocking birds and, so far, I haven’t found anything that scares a mocking bird. I’m convinced they stay out of the sweet corn because plundering it requires a lot of work. Mocking birds are opportunists and not much given to industry more strenuous than stealing cat or dog food.
Or blueberries which they will steal as fast as they ripen. In fact, we have yet to harvest enough blueberries for breakfast muffins because four mocking birds would brazenly fly down and snatch them with me sitting just 10 feet away. They would fly away if I yelled and waved my arms but not before grabbing a ripe berry. They mock a lot more than just other bird calls.
We have foiled them, in the blueberries, with some pricey netting designed to keep birds out of cherry trees but I have 30 tomato plants and I simply can’t afford enough netting to cover all of them. Keeping them out of my tomatoes will be a challenge but I actually look forward to taking it on.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at email@example.com or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.