Monday, May 19, 2008

St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the ecology, is in my yard. This weather beaten statue of St. Francis also had an honored place in my yard when I lived on seven acres of hilly wooded land in Pennsylvania. Many birds have perched on top of his cement head, while taking a brief rest from building a new nest or foraging for food for their new nestlings in their nest. When I moved to Delaware from Pennsylvania in 2006, I left many landscape structures behind for the new owners of the property. I built my house in 1981 in a clearing on that wooded Pennsylvania hillside (see the slide show on the upper left of this blog page). One of the first things I did was ask my father to build some more of his birdhouses for my new property. My father had built birdhouses for years and had much success in attracting bluebirds and other beneficial species of birds to his three acres of land nearby. Each year without fail, the house wrens would arrive from their winter quarters in the south and take up residence again in those same birdhouses. They did this for the 25 years that I lived on that property. When I sold my house, I didn’t want to disturb the landscape too much for the annual visit by the wrens and all the other birds that called my seven acres in East Brandywine Township, Pennsylvania home. However, one landscape item that I brought with me was my St. Francis statue. To me, it is a symbol of how I would welcome the many new Delaware birds that would call my one acre of land in Sussex County, Delaware home. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I’ve had some difficulty with a few determined house sparrows who insist on nesting in my four blue bird trail houses and my Purple Martin birdhouse. The sparrows are determined to take over all of my birdhouses. While I have empathy for the sparrow, my property is opened to all and not just one very aggressive species of bird. After several frustrating attempts by me to completely ban the sparrows from my property, I have set aside one blue bird box for the sparrows to nest. They’re building a nest in it now but their hearts are still on that one apartment in the Purple Martin house. I’ve tried cleaning out their nest only to see them rebuild it. I’ve left open the door to the bird house apartment. The Determined Sparrow built an even more elaborate nest, to protect its eggs from the elements, even though the birdhouse apartment had no front on it. Yesterday morning, after tearing out that nest, I filled the apartment with a plastic bag from Walmart. As soon as I left, Mr. Determined was up there checking out the new obstacle. His lady friend joined him a short time later. They spent most of the day up there, on the ledge, wondering what to do. Talking to each other in quick little chirps. They continued to build their nest in the blue bird house I set aside for them, but I could tell they really wanted The Penthouse apartment. This morning, after breakfast, I went out to see if they were building another nest in the Purple Martin house. The white plastic Walmart bag was still visibile in the hole to the apartment, blocking entry. I checked the blue bird house where they were building a nest. It appears that they have put more nesting material in there. I looked across the back yard; I saw a pair of blue birds sitting on the other blue bird house. The third blue bird house between these two houses was still empty. Apparently, this bird house is located in No Man’s Land. I suspect Mr. Determined Sparrow is only reluctantly building his nest in the remaining blue bird house. Thus, it appears that the birds that populate my backyard are living in harmony now. Robins, and Grackles roam the thick green grass in search of worms and grubs to feed their young ones located in some secret unknown placethat only they know. Once in a great while a Peregrine Falcon makes a screeching swoop down from the sky, hoping to get lucky and snag an unsuspecting bird in its sharp talons. However, I haven’t seen the falcon for several weeks now. Perhaps it has found an abundant food supply elsewhere to feed its young. I will continue to monitor my back yard to insure that all of the birds have a safe home, with the help of St. Francis.

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