Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rebuilding feedership

I’ve had to go out and swipe a photo again this morning due to the inadequacy of my camera equipment and the pesky screen on the kitchen window that separates me from the birds.

Feeding the birds is one of pleasures of life in Iowa during the winter, especially when there’s snow on the ground and feedership expands substantially. We’re not actually doing the birds that much of a favor by feeding them, since they’re usually capable of taking care of themselves, but it sure is good inexpensive and harmless human entertainment.

Finches, juncos and a couple of alpha bluejays are the dominant feeders now, at midmorning. The small birds were here at dawn, displaced after a bit by the bigger feeders --- bluejays and doves.

My feedership still is not up to acceptable levels because I got careless during December about keeping the feeders full, but now seem to be back on track and volume is increasing.

The feeders (a mesh thistle seed feeder for finches and a cheap plastic seed feeder that squirrels love to dump) are most visible from the kitchen window --- and that means I usually keep the dishes washed. I like to scatter seed on the sidewalk, too, and that’s appreciated by the ground feeders (when the squirrels fail to dump the plastic feeder).

I especially like to watch the doves waddle around with their heads bobbing --- one pair was here this morning, but there seem to be two pair in the neighborhood (where they nest in summer, too).

I call them mourning doves (or turtle doves), but they’re really not. I’m reasonably sure, because of the distinctive black collars at the back of their necks, that they’re fairly recent arrivals in Iowa --- Eurasian collared doves (swiped photo above). They look and behave a lot like our native doves (Zenaida macroura), but aren’t.

The collared doves were introduced in the Bahamas during the 1970s, managed the flight up to Florida on their own during the 1980s and have been spreading enthusiastically from border to border and coast to coast ever since.

Although called “invasive,” they seem to be causing no damage to native species and may even be filling a niche left when damnfool humans managed to exterminate passenger pigeons.

Although subject to a variety of threats, Iowa’s doves are at least safe from hunters --- so I don’t have to worry about my feeder friends being blown away.

Dove hunting is big sport in other states, but that seems to be more a matter of pure cussedness on the part of shooters --- if it flies, kill that sucker Marvin --- than anything else. There’s not much meat there.

Adding doves to menu of things to kill comes up in the Iowa Legislature periodically and it wouldn’t surprise me if it comes up this year, too. Killing stuff seems to be a Republican preoccupation. But a majority of Iowans seem to prefer to keep their doves flying free and stand up and yell about it when potential dove seasons are introduced.

Hopefully that will continue.


Wanda Horn said...

The house finches who nest on my balcony every summer were here this week scoping out the premises. Since I took down last year's fake greenery (the finches' preferred nesting spots) and haven't replaced it yet, I hope they weren't too discouraged to come back. Even though it's cold this week, it was good to have their little hustle-bustle outside my door for a little while.

Charles M. Wright said...

Each spring there's competition among house finches in my neighborhood to nest in one of the hanging baskets of ivy geraniums on my condo balcony. Even before I can get to the greenhouse to shop in late March, they begin scouting impatiently. I pretty much let them think the balcony is their domain for the season. When they're off feeding, I slip out and carefully give the geraniums a little drink without disturbing their nest. I love these annual guests.

A pair of neighborhood doves remember that I sometimes put a little cracked corn on the balcony floor and drop by to see me. They perch on the balcony railing and stare at me through the glass doors. Last summer they brought their two fledglings for a single visit. They perched in close formation on the railing as if posing for a family portrait and stayed nearly half an hour. I was certain they were showing off their young just for me.

The only time (so far) that I've ever written to members of our state legislature has been when some darn fool again brings up the topic of dove hunting in Iowa. Maybe this year they're too busy trying to impeach our supreme court justices and stomp out early childhood education to think about doves. I'm not counting on it.