Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Mystery in the Seed Dish

We have a mystery in the seed dish outside the bedroom window. Each morning, when I check the seed level, I find these little balls of seed and grass. They resemble feces, somewhat, but not really. They're more like hay rolls with seeds mixed in. To be honest, I don't have a clue what they are.

I do have other clues. They only arrive at night. I remove them all during the morning, and check the seeds throughout the day because the water dish is beneath and I like to make sure that the birds have clean water when they need it. I don't see the little grass balls, though. So, obviously, whatever it is that is leaving the little grass balls in the seed tray, they only do it late at night.

At first, we only noticed one or two. My husband pointed them out to me when he was leaving for work. He scooped them out with a leaf and tossed them onto the sidewalk. Later that day, I checked the sidewalk--it appeared as if the birds had broken it apart and eaten the seeds the way some birds will pick at cow manure. Gradually, more little grass balls appeared. This morning, there were so many that I had to scoop them up with a box lid from the trash--they completely covered the tops of the seeds. They do not smell like feces, and the seeds underneath are not clumped together as if something had gone potty on them. It's just such...a mystery!

I close my blinds when it's dark because the birds go to bed and stop visiting the tray, so I'm not really sure what happens after dark in that corner of the house. It is a little secluded, even though it faces the street. This is intentional. I have two crape myrtles in pots beside the seed tray waiting to be planted in our new house. I placed them by the seed tray so the birds would have a place to land. I also have a Wisteria branch in a pot that is growing strong and vining around the seed table. The Wisteria was uprooted at our old house during straight line winds that came through in the spring. In front of the tray I have potted plants. I set it up this way to protect the birds from the many stray cats in the neighborhood--who of course come for the dish of food I keep on the opposite side of the house, in case they cannot find food of their own.

This seclusion became particularly important this spring when a father and mother cardinal arrived, then slowly, one by one, they started bringing their babies down to the seed dish to feed them and teach them how to eat seeds. It was a wonderful adventure. Yesterday, I saw the mother, father, three girls and boy baby birds all on the back patio at once. The babies are no longer babies. Even in the spring they were the size of their parents. They still look a bit awkward as their adult feathers continue to fill in. Nevertheless, with their bright colors and funny habit of hopping around each other and skipping across the bricks they are beautiful gifts from God to our yard.

So, now I have these strange little grass balls in the seed dish. Tonight, instead of closing the blinds when it get dark outside, we will leave them open and wait. There isn't a light in the bedroom in that corner, so it will still be dark enough that the creature should not be frightened away, and I'm usually awake until two in the morning, writing. Odds are good that the mystery will be solved tonight.

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