Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Perils of Glass

Yesterday I was working at my desk when I heard a bang from the sunroom that I suspected was a bird striking a window. I had cleaned the glass on the back screen door a week or so ago and never replaced the bird-deterrent decal and unfortunately a bird collided with the glass door. As long as the interior door is closed this presents little danger to the birds. However on warm days when I opt to leave the interior door open, this screen door beckons birds toward what appears to be a convenient flyway.

I should know better. A few years back during migration, I lured a Gray-cheeked Thrush to its death via this manner.  Following this incident I purchased falcon silhouette decals to prevent future bird carnage. It would seem it can never be one of the ubiquitous House Sparrows who finds its demise via a window strike. Without fail, it always has to be some decent species other than your basic backyard junk bird that has to crash into the glass.

In yesterday's case, near death came to this Red-eyed Vireo... (well not really)

Fortunately, although stunned by the window strike, the bird appeared unharmed. I retrieved it from the back stoop, gave it some water, warmed it for a spell, shot a few macros of it and placed it back in the dogwood where I've seen it feeding the past few days.  It flew without difficulty after gathering composure and recuperating for a few minutes. Later in the day it announced it presence with a whine and I located it foraging on the fruits and insects of the Washington Hawthorne growing in my yard.

Today the Red-eyed Vireo returned again. Given that I get few woodland species visiting my yard, I'm 99% certain this is the same bird that's been present for several days.

Although my house has felt like the bane of my existence the past few years, I am proud of taking my yard from this in 2005 when I moved in....

And turning it into this in 2011...

And this today...

While this may not seem like much of an accomplishment for those who live in warmer and more temperate climates, transforming a rather barren landscape to a multidimensional oasis of trees, shrubs and plants, requires time and patience in the Upper Midwest.

In 2006, I joined the Arbor Day Foundation basically to receive some free fruiting trees that were mere twigs. Among them was my now thriving Washington Hawthorne and some dogwood variety, both of which the birds love as a food source and cover. In subsequent years I supplemented my plantings with a Silky Dogwood and Pagada Dogwood from the UW Arboretum Native Plant Sale. The Silky Dogwood, another bird favorite for its berries, thrived and readily sent up volunteers which I spread throughout the yard. The result is what you see today. While the shit House Sparrows and the chipmunks seem to consume most of the Silky Dogwood fruit, my expanding hummingbird population and Black-capped Chickadees enjoy the cover these native shrubs provide. However, my thriving trees and shrubs have begun to shade out my lavender, echinacea and other sun-loving perennials. This is par for the course in the life of a chaotic gardener who somewhat haphazardly developed this yard without a defined plan. Adaptation is key. Just today I transplanted some of these sun-loving plants to areas in my yard that can still support them.

My neighbor with his pesticide-laden, chemically-enhanced yard purports that I need a chainsaw, I beg to differ.

Despite my efforts, the bird life in my yard generally still remains to be a rather banal mix of House Sparrows, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatches. However on occasion I've proudly hosted the following species which I feel is somewhat of a decent accomplishment for a small urban Midwestern backyard:

Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird
Great Horned Owl
Swainson's Thrush
Tennessee Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Brown Creeper
White-crowned Sparrow
Fox Sparrow

Also typical for an urban Midwestern backyard is the occasional visit from a feasting Cooper's Hawk. While these birds typically hunt my feeders, just recently a young Cooper's Hawk spent several minutes trying to access my House Sparrow trap. Eventually I felt bad for the energy the bird was expending and scared it off...

Regardless of the fondness and attachment I have for my yard, I am hoping this will be my last fall in my house. This yard is the most positive memory I will take with me when I leave.  It will be difficult to let go of this labor of love. However as with all things in life, I'm at getting better at the letting go thing. After all, nothing has permanence.

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