Monday, August 2, 2010

Birding bummers/pesticide rant

One of the worst birding seasons is upon us now, the tail end of summer. It's almost as dreary as the tail end of winter. I have already noticed that my species counts have dropped quite a bit, even from two weeks ago. And even worse, I know that week by week all my summer favorites are going to stop singing and take leave of us for the season. I did a bit of urban birding and a bit of countryside birding over the weekend, and noticed this in both "habitats." Well, the red-winged blackbirds are still occupying Tipton Park in force...since they are one of the first migrants to leave, the blackbirds are my barometer of when the summer is wrapping up for good.

At least I can tell myself that in about three weeks, the fall migrants will start coming through! And three weeks isn't that long to wait.

I also told myself that at least I could notate my workweek birds that I see on lunch break. Last week had some nice surprises: a belted kingfisher, two young wood ducks, a pair of house wrens. Plus, a pair of catbirds has decided the lawn by the pond close to my office is a good place for raising their young.

Even with this incentive, Monday mornings are not the best of times, and I dragged my feet getting out the door, flipping through a book I bought over the weekend about attracting birds to the backyard. Absolutely, the book instructed, do not use pesticides. These poisons are directly responsible, according to some estimates, for 65 million dead birds every year. Even the natural ones should be used sparingly, for they kill bugs, after all, and what do birds eat?

As I pulled up in my workplace parking lot, it was clear that someone else did not get the memo, for the "lawn care" guys were there, carrying around hoses attached to a big tank of guess what? Pesticides. They were liberally spraying the crap across the grass and along all the bushes and grasses that line the property. The fumes stank to high heaven. And I fumed all day thinking about the wrens and catbirds.

The grass still stank of the stuff when I walked around at 4:00. I didn't see any birds at all, except for a crow flying overhead. Finally, off in the distance, I heard a catbird mewling. Hopefully the whole family will be okay.

I guess what annoys me the most is how unnecessary the whole thing was. It's not a garden, or a park. All that grows there is some shabby looking grass. It's not like anyone besides myself sits out there, and I'm not worried about the occasional ant that crawls on me. I don't see why spraying that poison was necessary at all...let alone in the huge quantities that were used.

Some people will argue that this is all a bunch of alarmist ranting and whatever was in that tank is perfectly safe. It may be (well, except to IS a poison.) I have no idea what they were using. Regardless, it made the whole area reek and I don't see what the purpose was.


  1. I agree - I'm trying to get birds into my yard to eat my grubs. Please let me know if you have any tips. I have 2 bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds.

  2. I mean I agree with you that we shouldn't use pesticides. :)

  3. I don't have any direct, hands-on experience getting birds to show up -- and hopefully, eat some grubs while they're there -- but from what I've read to make your yard hospitable to birds, provide food, water, shelter and a place to nest. Feeders are good but a lot of species don't eat seeds that much. Maybe if you provided mealworms at your feeder as well as seeds, you would attract the kinds of birds that would move on to the grubs when the worms were gone. You can buy dried mealworms if you don't want to handle live ones. Also, bird baths, shrubs, anything with berries, nest boxes, all of this would make your yard more attractive to birds.