Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'll let you know when to stop reading

Today would have been perfect.
On a whim, I took the girls to the Oxbow.

Although you can revel in the splendor of a vast diversity of wildlife there, you also have to watch your step for broken glass, garbage and lazy-fisherman's discarded fishing line.
And someone tied this rope to this tree who knows how long ago, yet no one ever cut the tree loose.
Girls at the Oxbow
A grand day, under perfect blue skies.
This water is so shallow, you can walk all the way across it and not get your armpits wet.
Five young TRES sitting in a tree
A fresh brood of tree swallows serenaded us from a tree we were sitting under.

And this should have been the thing that set the tone for the day:
A prothonotary warbler! A life bird...and a picture of said life bird.


Here is where the disclaimer comes in...those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know how I feel about house sparrows.
If you feel that "all life is sacred" and we shouldn't "play God" with wildlife, etc...please close this window now.
Otherwise, if you are ready to read a major rant, please continue:

Mom finally had nesting bluebirds this year. She usually sees a few way before this time of year, but she has never had a successful nest. A pair decided to begin a nest in a nest box my Dad built years ago. His heart was in the right place, of course, but the design was lacking.
Today, when we arrived at Mom's, she told me that there were four eggs in the box. I walked down to check, and there were three.
Uh oh.
I was puzzled by tiny chips in the shells of the remaining eggs.
I asked Mom if she was finally ready to change the nest box to a better one that I had lent her last year and she agreed.
We placed a new, baffled pole in front of the old one, and transferred the nest. I then demolished the old box with a sledgehammer. Sorry, Dad. Had to be done.
We retreated to the house to watch the bluebirds, and they came back to the new nest and seemed to take it in stride.
As I watched, though, a small brown bird came flying into the bushes below the window, carrying a small blue thing.
Oh, damn, damn, damn.
A male house sparrow was removing the eggs.
Demolished BB egg
I am sparing you the picture of the tiny embryo that was inside this egg.
Dead BB egg
Here's one of the remaining eggs...four white chips, with a bloody hole.
My Mom has agreed to start trapping.

Here comes the rant:
You have to choose between bluebirds and house sparrows. They can't live in harmony together. Why? Because HOSP were brought here by HUMANS, to a world that they had not evolved in, and the bluebirds have no defense against them. In their native land, some aggressive behavior has been noted, but nothing like how they act here.

I don't want to hear that killing HOSP is "playing God". Spare me.

We have been wiping our collective a**es with this planet for how long? And the HOSP problem is just a tiny speck in the huge dump truck of things we have done to upset the balance.

I don't want to hear that the "House Sparrows" didn't ask for this. Spare me.

The BLUEBIRDS didn't ask for it, either! Wiping out HOSP (even if that was remotely possible) would return the songbird balance back to a closer resemblance of what is supposed to be. What can be done is LOCAL, ACTIVE control of the HOSP population. That means trapping and killing them. If you are one of the "house sparrow huggers", you will not get any sympathy from me. If you want to spout "karma" at me, save your breath. If someone was ransacking your house and killing your children, what would you do? Would you say to yourself, "Oh, I will just sit back and let them, because I don't want to get any bad karma."? Hell no. You would blow them away.
I have heard some rehabbers say that they will treat starlings and house sparrows, because it's not up to them to choose. Oh really? Since when?

When are we, as a species, going to start thinking of more than just our own yards? We are the only species on the planet able to make a choice as to how we treat this precious Earth, and look what we have done. I could get all riled up about pesticides and the stupid choices that people make with their cars, houses, garbage....but that would be off the subject. But just let me say this: what you do in your yard affects your neighbor's yard. When we begin to think globally, our local environment will benefit.

Which would you rather have, anyway? A bird whose body chemistry, when in an introduced setting, is to procreate at any cost to the other birds who call the land their home? A bird who does not belong here? A bird who can't help themselves when it's time to nest and destroy any "competing" nests?
Or would you rather have a bird who bothers no one? Whose brilliant blue strums the strings of your heart?
Mom and Dad BB
These are the parents of those destroyed eggs. We owe it to them to make our yard, the yard THEY chose to nest in, a safe place.
If you are still reading, and disagree with what I have said and are planning a scathing rebuttal, be warned. You will get smacked down. Get over it.
My Mom and I have sweat, worried and hoped for this pair of bluebirds, only to have it all dashed before our eyes.

I needed some beauty after the carnage, and I saw a tall "weed" growing alongside Mom's new driveway. I asked her what it was, and she didn't know and wanted to rip it out. I stopped her when I saw that it had a big, beautiful flower.
A pretty weed

I don't know what it is, but I stopped Mom from ripping it out
Who knows what this is?


LauraHinNJ said...

I'm with you on the house sparrow thing, Susan. It's not easy, but I'd rather have more bluebirds!

Your mom's flower is a datura of some sort, don't you think?

... I was ready to say something snarky about your aphrodiasic theory, but I'll refrain...

Susan Gets Native said...

Laura, you stinker. You are right!
Datura stramonium. How did I miss that in my ID guide?
I don't think I will share my datura recipe with Mom.

Trixie said...

Rant on, woman! I am right with you.

dguzman said...

sheesh, and I was gonna guess "eggplant blossom"!!!

I am with you on the HOSP situation, though it's taken me a while to come off my "but all birds are cute and deserve to live!" train. Man, I'm almost crying now, thinking about those poor bluebirds. Shit! Will they try another brood? Please say they will, Susan!

Dave said...

Girl, I sure wouldn't want to get on your wrong side. I agree with you on the HOSP. We have many types of invasive species and plants that we're dealing with up here.

Mary said...

I wouldn't want to be on your bad side, either! Fortunately for me, I'm in total agreement with you regarding HOSP. I have become well acquainted and attached to Bluebirds this year and would take revenge on any bird that would attack them or any other innocent bird.

I just love that photo of the girls sitting at the end of the pond. That's beautiful!

mon@rch said...

Wow, never seen a Prothonotary before! I am very jealous! I hear you on the house sparrow bit!

KatDoc said...

Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), Nightshade family. Toxic as hell. Kills cattle and sheep that graze on it, fruiting structures have poisoned curious children. Some people get a contact dermatitis from touching the leaves or flowers. From tropical Americas. Not one that I let live around my yard.

Datura species have been used in various native peoples' religous rites. If you read the "Earth Children" series by Jean Auel, datura figured in those stories as well.

Beautiful Prothonotary! I haven't seen one yet this year (and I've been looking.)

Your mom needs a Sparrow Spooker as well as to start trapping. (

I have a male HOSP hanging around here and he won't go into any of my trap boxes. I am terrified he will get my bluebird or martin babies. As well as wrecking eggs, HOSP can kill baby birds, even females who are incubating/brooding their young. Not good. Wonder if they would eat Jimsonweed?

Dguzman: The bluebirds may try to renest there, or they may abandon that box because of the murder. One year, I had a pair lay 3 eggs that were destroyed by a HOSP. They laid 2 more, which the HOSP also destroyed, then they left. The HOSP didn't even use the box, he moved on, too. That pair never came back; the next year, I had a new, young bluebird couple move in. That's when I went to trapping and using the Spooker. Doing much better now, thanks!


Mary said...

Laura first told me Datura is poisonous so I moved it out of the back yard. Now I think I'll remove it completely. Thanks.