Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flowers and Sparrows

It hasn't rained for four days, but the fields are exploding with flowers. The roses have seven or eight blooms at a time. The pepper and tomato plants all have fresh, young fruit growing, but we no longer have a bug problem, it seems, and plants and fruit look shiny and healthy. We do have bugs, but they disappear as quickly as they arrive. I find half-eaten grasshoppers all over the sidewalks and inside the garage, the remains of a grasshopper sparrow's lunch.

The grasshopper sparrows have taken over my house, and I love it. However, they also seem to have chased off the squirrels, and just about everything else, but me, of course. The flock started out as fifteen or so tiny birds that hatched in various nests in the garage and under the umbrella, then it grew to around forty. Now there are at least fifty that stay on the back patio in the mustang grape vines. I made a double-decker tray feeder for this group with trays that slide out easily for cleaning. The top tray holds food and the bottom holds water. There are fifteen or more sparrows living in the thick mat of vines covering the trellises around my bedroom patio. They now eat the seeds that once belonged to the squirrels. I do see a squirrel out there about once a day, but nothing like the ten or more that made daily appearances this spring. There's another ten or so sparrows that hang out by the back umbrella, munching on the bird seed we leave on the picnic table. They have a deep clay saucer filled with water that they use as a bird bath.

There is also a small group of mourning doves in the front yard that eat from a tray of seeds on the side picnic table, but they also share these seeds with a few sparrows that live in the trees by my bedroom picture window. It's quite a chore keeping their food and water dishes clean, and it's become an even bigger chore keeping the bird droppings washed off the sidewalks.

From inside, it sounds like the bird exhibit at the zoo. When I walk outside with the dogs, the birds are instantly silent. If I walk outside alone, they continue to sing and chatter, and only fly up into the vines if I get within a few feet. When I'm in the bedroom, they hop about the patio, chattering and singing, only a few feet away from me. I leave the door open now because it's much cooler here and they can hear me when I talk to my husband or talk on the phone, but this doesn't seem to bother them like it did some of the other varieties of birds this spring. The cardinals would hop back into the trees then fly away when they heard us talking. The sparrows are so much friendlier. When I speak to them in a soft, soothing voice, they grow quiet, but they stay close by, fluttering their wings and hopping about.

I did find one large grasshopper yesterday. He is huge and yellow and I took his picture, which you can see to the right. He is actually very colorful. In spite of the large sparrow population, I am still surprised by the distinct lack of bugs simply because we have so many blooming flowers!

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