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Birds make a home at Pizza Hut. April 20, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Like most people, I love pizza, and like most people, I love some pizzas more than others. When I’m not making my own pizza with its pesto and olive oil base topped with my own chunky, super-rich marinara sauce and lots of shredded mozzarella and provolone, I love Papa John’s thin and crispy veggie pizza and Pizza Hut’s veggie pan pizza. But there’s something I love even more than these, and that’s Pizza Hut’s cheese breadsticks with extra marinara dipping sauce. Who needs pizza when you have them?!

Yesterday, OFB and I were returning from the farmers’ market when we saw a Pizza Hut. There’s no Pizza Hut near us, and we’d headed to a distant farmers’ market as a special pre-Easter treat. “Ben, let’s stop and get cheese breadsticks!” OFB was up for it and swung into the parking lot. I waited in the car while he went in for the breadsticks, facing a bunch of tightly pruned yew and chamaecyparus evergreen shrubs. As I idly watched the shrub directly in front of our car, I noticed a beak poking out. Followed by a head peeking out. Followed by a male house sparrow slowly emerging from inside the shrub and making his way to the top.

Next, a second head poked out, this time the female. She called to the male, who then flew off. Then she withdrew back into the protective shelter of the shrub, where they doubtless had built a nest. I’d never seen such a thing before in my life. All I could think of was the female sticking her head out and calling to her mate, as I had to OFB, “Don’t forget to ask for extra marinara sauce!”

‘Til next time,

Silence

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Starlings: Love them or hate them? March 25, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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“Listen to that wonderful birdsong!” our friend Rob announced while visiting us the other day. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood were appalled: Rob was referring to the unmusical but deafening cacophany of the starlings that had taken up temporary residence in our tree canopy. These nuisance birds appear here in great numbers every spring, beating out all other birds at feeders and pooping all over the place. OFB suggested that Rob check out his car, which in fact was now liberally streaked with starling poop. “Yes, aren’t they just wonderful?”

Starlings are perhaps the best-known example of non-native species deliberately introduced to America by well-meaning idiots who didn’t understand what the consequences of their actions would ultimately be. (Multiflora rose and kudzu are others.)

In the case of starlings, some jackass was determined to introduce every bird mentioned in the works of Shakespeare into Central Park. In 1890, he released 60 pairs of starlings, and the rest is history: Their number is now estimated at 150 million. Ditto for the house sparrow, introduced also in New York in 1852, which has spread across the continent and displaced native sparrows and other birds.

These are deliberate introductions that have wreaked havoc with our ecology, not escapes like the Quaker parrot (aka monk parakeet) colony in Chicago or accidental introductions like the Japanese beetle and the brown marmorated stinkbug or, say, the Norway rat. Mercifully, most people now know better than to try to introduce non-agricultural species to the great outdoors, and there are regulations in place to try to prevent invasive species like the Asian carp, now in the Great Lakes, and Burmese pythons, now in the Everglades, from entering the country.

The house sparrow is a very handsome bird, to our eyes the most attractive sparrow. The starling, in its spring plumage, is spangled with a constellation of white stars on its dark feathers. The same could be said of multiflora rose with its mounds of white flowers or kudzu, which is prized in its native Japan for its nourishing and medicinal properties. It’s not their fault they’re here, it’s ours. Let’s hope we’ve finally learned our lesson. All that glitters is not gold.