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Adventures of an avian kind....

June 3rd, 2012 at 08:24 pm

A few people are trying to make my town a "transition" town. This is a movement that's all about sustainability and weaning ourselves off oil and other fossil fuels.

I had registered to attend a showing of an interesting movie at the library about how Cuba experienced a kind of Peak Oil period after the Soviet Union collapsed and all the funding and aid they got from them dried up. Suddenly, there were oil and gas shortages, regular power outages and no food, so people started planting survival gardens wherever there was open space in Havana.

I was disappointed to find it was just me and one other woman attending the movie, with her daughter. There was supposed to be a discussion afterwards. The movie was ok, but a little dull, so when a thunderstorm suddenly arrived, I decided to dash home to put away a few things I'd left outside.

Today was the day I was going to addle the eggs of a pair of English sparrows that took up residence in one of the nest boxes after the bluebirds fledged. English sparrows and starlings are the only two birds you can legally kill in the US. English sparrows are very aggressive birds and will often peck the eggs of bluebirds, effectively killing them. They are responsible for the decline of many native songbirds and tend to dominate the habitat.

I consider myself very fortunate in that we don't seem to have an entrenched local population of English sparrows, starlings or cowbirds. I'm a longtime observer of birds in my own backyard, and in fact I've monitored songbird populations for Cornell for over 15 years. Occasionally I see the undesirable species but they usually appear to be passing through, and I consider myslef very lucky, becus I remember sitting on my lunch hour countless times when i worked in other towns, and all I'd ever see were English sparrows, starlings and doves. I felt like I lived in a little avian paradise. Until this spring, when I started seeing more and more of at least one pair of the dreaded English sparrows.

After doing some online research on the subject, I determined the best way to deal with these sparrows was to addle the eggs and pierce them with a needle as an additional precaution, then return them to the nest. There have been reports that if you destroy the eggs, the birds go after and attack the eggs of other birds, and I do have house wrens in the other nest box. Plus, if you return the eggs, the English sparrows will sit on them for another few weeks, which delays their ability to reproduce until they catch on the eggs aren't going to hatch.

So I approached the box this morning, not really relishing the prospect of eggicide, but realizing it was necessary. If you're a birder, you know what I mean. If you're not, it may seem harsh, but do the research and you'll understand.

I had cleaned out the box after the bluebirds left about a week and a half ago, and according to research, the English sparrows would have built their nest and laid their eggs by now. I wanted to get to the eggs before they hatched becus I know i'm not capable of harming live chicks, but i wanted to make sure all the eggs were laid (they usually lay one a day, up to about 7 eggs).

Then just yesterday, I saw a house wren hanging out by the box, which struck me as odd, since English sparrows are rather vicious and would have chased other birds away. I was surprised to find only a partially built nest inside, and NO eggs. For reasons unknown, the English sparrows apparently abandoned that nest. I had been seeing them repeatedly going in and out of the box, and I was sure they were nest-building. I would think it would be considered a prime nest site, but who knows.

The only other thing that happened is that a few days ago, I came home after being out, was in the sunroom and when i looked out the French door window, I saw what appeared to be a dead bird on the stoop outside. It most likely flew into the window, quite possibly frightened by a hawk. I've had hawk predation before ath the bird feeder, and birds will fly in a panic, in every direction, when a hawk appears. I felt sad as i looked at the bird, but didn't have time to dispose of it then. I didn't examine it closely, but thought it might be a song sparrow, which is a very pretty little bird.

I know from experience that sometimes what appears to be a dead bird is not really dead, but merely stunned from the head-on collision with glass, and that the best thing to do is leave it be (as long as it's safe from cats) and see if it recovers on its own. I checked the bird about 15 minutes later, and it was still there, so i figured, too bad, it's really dead.

The next morning, I made a point to go and take the dead bird somewhere, and guess what? It was gone! Either one of two things happened: 1. the bird was stunned, as described above, or 2. some kind of predator happened upon it over night and grabbed it.
I do have foxes and coyotes here, as well as cats and the occasional raccoon, but they are seldom seen and are not a daily visitor, as far as I know, especially so close to the house. So now I wonder if the bird recovered.

If it didn't recover, i suppose it's POSSIBLE it was the English sparrow female, which is easily confused with other sparrows and female house finches. That could be one reason why nest building ceased in the bluebird box.

Another riddle I guess I'll never know.

1 Responses to “Adventures of an avian kind....”

  1. SicilyYoder Says:

    I have French balcony doors. I love them. I watched a free movie ( Nell) at the library years ago and only two young boys showed up. I was shocked that there weren't more people taking part in the freebie.

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