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The Birds Is Coming!


“And good English has went.”

That’s how it was. At least that’s how I remember it. I am, unfortunately, old enough to have a memory of when Alfred Hitchcock made his film “The Birds.” (Hint: don’t watch it before visiting the aviary.) The tag line for the advertising campaign was “The birds is coming!” However, I was pretty young (really) and I remember the Mad Magazine parody as well or better than the actual movie. And in the Mad cartoon, there was a billboard that countered the advertising pitch with the phrase, “And good English has went.” It was just a visual throw-away line, but I thought it was about the funniest thing I had ever read.

Like I said, I was very young.

After having nightmares for the next four or five years (I need to ask Mom exactly what about the movie my parents thought would keep kiddies laughing), I managed to put the INCREDIBLY GRAPHIC IMAGES out of my mind. And I thought that was it.

And then, for no particular reason at all, I bought a bird feeder this past winter. Okay, I suppose there was a particular reason: I wanted some birds to visit my garden in the backyard. Not that they didn’t already, but I had this romantic notion that I would enjoy watching a plethora of species flit about, feeding and playing and bringing joy and beauty to my world. Heck, it might even encourage me to become a birder.

I loaded the big, plastic tube lined with feeder holes and perches with the “premiere”mix from a store that caters exclusively to birds, hung it from my shepherd’s crook and waited for my winged friends to partake in the feast that I had set out for them.

A few birds tentatively explored the device–English sparrows mostly. But birds aren’t exactly like monkeys when it comes to experimenting and figuring things out, you know? They’re–well, they’re kind of dense. Bird-brained, if you will. I bought a feeder with a tray at the bottom; the bird clerk said that it would encourage larger birds like cardinals to join the party, as they would have someplace to sit. The little guys quickly discovered the seed that I put in the tray, but they were clueless about using the perches and sticking their beaks into the mother lode.

At some point, however, the Stephen Hawking of sparrows must have arrived in the yard. Somehow this feathered genius evolved light years ahead of his companions and figured out that, yes, you’re supposed to sit on the perch and, yes, the hole in the feeder is there for a reason, too. Given enough time, this bird will probably discover cold fusion. Anyway, the feeder was suddenly covered with birds, I mean they were on that baby like…well, like birds on a feeder. Pushing, flapping, diving, squawking at each other, using insult humor (“Yeah, your uncle was a turkey buzzard!”)–you’d think some momma bird would have taught them manners somewhere along the way.

After a few days, my own dim brain began to register that some kind of threshold had been crossed. My yard, which to this point had been a rather peaceful place in the winter, was now Bird Central Station. They, and when I say “they” I mean about forty thousand English Sparrows and one female and one male cardinal (this is what biodiversity looks like in the city), were everywhere. On the feeder, on the ground, in the rambling rose canes on the fence, in the trees, on the garage, everywhere. And the husks of their bird feed were everywhere. And the bird poop was EVERYWHERE.

“Doesn’t anybody else in the neighborhood feed these little [expletive deleted]s?” I lamented as I watched the avian rugby scrum that had taken over my yard. When the experiment started, I was refilling the bird feeder every other day. Then every day. And now, at every ten minutes or so, my entire life was about feeding sparrows. “Won’t those little [expletive deleted]s explode at some point?” I fervently hoped. The simple act of filling the feed had become some kind of bizarre ritual. As the feed got closer and closer to the top of the tube, the birds would chirp louder and louder and, as I topped off the feeder, they would, with an unholy roar, descend on the feast, as I scrambled to get out of the way.

This aggressiveness manifested itself in other ways, too. The sparrows began mugging the squirrels and pigeons that dared to approach the feeder. They spray painted little bird gang signs on my ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapple tree (“Insane War Blurs”). Getting to my car in the garage became about protecting myself from strafing birds while dodging the bird poop (did I mention that it was EVERYWHERE?) A pack of them broke into the house and raided the pantry. Who knew how much they liked restaurant-style corn chips? My desperation grew to the point that there was only one recourse left me.

I stopped filling the feeder.

That was weeks ago. I haven’t left the house. I don’t think I can. The cable, phone and electricity are out. I managed to get this message out via one slightly-battered pigeon who has taken pity on me.

I think I spotted something that looks like a cold fusion device in the yard this morning. Should I be worried?

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questions

I have twelve beautiful blooming violet plants on my office desk, placed 12 inches from a light source that’s kept burning day and night. I water them from the bottom and let the water remain in the saucer.

No matter what I spray, I continue to have gnats and other insects in my soil. I also occasionally start to get yellow spots on the tips of the leaves and then the spots start going down the leaves. What’s going on here?

I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

We moved into a house with a lovely azalea that didn’t bloom. We thought it might have been over-pruned. Last fall we did not prune it and now it still hasn’t bloomed. I was hoping to transplant it this year, but it looks rather sickly. Shall we prune it again and give it another year? Can I still transplant it?

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