Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sisyphus with a pair of shears

a robin's nest

I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like lately. There are a few reasons for this, and one of them is the state of my back yard. Those of you who have been dropping by for a while might recall how excited I was when Greenturtle and I first bought our house two years ago. Finally, after dreaming for years about the lovely, bird-friendly garden I wanted to create, at last I had my chance! Sure, as it was, the yard was pretty neglected, and it was full of bamboo--which I did not want--but I figured I'd just roll up my sleeves and get to work and soon have it all set to right.

two years ago...the bamboo jungle

Soon I learned of my naivete. In the proper environment (such as China, where it belongs), bamboo is doubtless a wonderful thing. In a small backyard in central Illinois, it is the spawn of Satan. You think I jest? Alas, no.

For those who were not reading during my summary of the Bamboo Wars, let me recap. There are two main types of bamboo available for landscaping: clumping and running bamboo. Both types of bamboo are actually a grass, and, in a bizarre space-alien sort of way, the entire grove is actually one single organism, which spreads by means of underground rhizomes.

The difference between the two types is the force of their invasiveness. Clumping bamboo spreads relatively slowly, giving one time to prune it back before it takes over your entire town. Running bamboo, on the other hand, can spread up to twenty feet in one year. It sends out underground runners far and wide, tangling up your yard underground as well as where you can see it, and absolutely ruining any other sort of plantings or landscaping you had in mind. And my bamboo? Well, it runs. And it runs fast. (If you would like to read my whole Bamboo Diatribe, check out the guest post I did for Beautiful Wildlife Gardens.)

So for the past couple of years, I've been cutting the bamboo down, and it's been growing back. And I've cut it down, and it's grown back. I can't even dig in one part of the yard because the underground runners are so prevalent, criss-crossing beneath the earth and completely impervious to my shovel. (We can use shears to cut it, then pull out a few inches, then cut again, but that's painstaking labor, and takes forever.)

Despite these tales of woe, I still know a couple of people who say they'd love to have some of my bamboo...for the privacy. That's like saying you want to try crystal meth for a bit of afternoon energy. Bad idea!! Friends, don't let friends plant bamboo!

Because of the futility of this labor, I've been rather silent on the bamboo issue for a while. But now we're ready to get serious. This time, it's full out war. We're going to rent a backhoe, and tear up the whole back yard, if that's what it takes!!

So in preparation for Operation Avenging Angel, I've cut down all the bamboo. All of it. And, within two days, it started to shoot up again. Just two days! I wanted to weep. Or buy some napalm. It's literally coming back quicker than I can keep up with it.


The futility of my labors puts me in mind of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, about the dude condemned by the gods to push a boulder up a mountain every day, then have it roll down the mountain each night. And then, in the morning, what did he have to do? That's right...push the boulder back up the mountain. It could be about a midwestern gardener with a bad case of bamboo. Just give poor Sisyphus a pair of shears.

But this is getting depressing. So I will wrap up with a nicer topic of things I find in my yard: bird's nests. (NB: no birds, eggs or nestlings were disturbed in any way for the photographing of these nests. All nests were collected only after they had been vacated or abandoned.)

This is -- I think! -- a grackle's nest, found in the bamboo when I first started clearing it out. Notice the plastic interwoven with the natural materials.


This is another robin's nest. I know for a fact that it's a robin's, as we watched the bird build it on our drain spout and sit in in for a week or so. Then one day the wind blew the nest to the ground. There did not appear to be any eggs or baby birds, however.


This bird also took advantage of some human made nesting material...Easter grass!


Finally, in the bamboo, I found what I think is another grackle's nest. I'm just basing this on some photos I found on the Internet, plus the fact that the only species of birds who really seem to love the bamboo are grackles (in the summer) and house sparrows and starlings (in the winter). Also, a Cooper's hawk, who dropped by frequently one winter to feast on the sparrows and starlings. Hey, it's nature.

In any event, this nest, attached to two culms of bamboo, is pretty massive.


But so intricate! Look how it's attached to the bamboo, with what looks like a borrowed piece of twine!


The other side is just made of grasses looped around. I guess they only found one piece of twine.


Just as I think I'm getting better at bird identification, I stumble across a whole new field of study--bird nests!

Well, hopefully, this time next year, the bamboo will be gone for good, and I'll have a wider variety of birds nesting in my yard. (Come on, house wrens!)

1 comment:

  1. I love the photos of the birds' nests! I enjoy seeing them, but trying to ID actual birds takes all of my efforts, never mind the nests. Still, I'm in awe of their skills. I'd be like the killdeer, for instance, a straw or two on the ground, and voila, the nest! Courage on the bamboo front...a backhoe will soon put it to route. I like your code name: Avenging Angel. MOM

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