Thursday, May 22, 2014

And So It Goes

Marsha and I had three Baltimore Orioles at our Japanese quince bush. 
This is a really big deal to us.  We hang feeders all year round; fill our perennial beds with various seed-toting and berry-bearing bushes (including three blueberry shrubs whose output we cede 100% to any interested avian); and provide several shrubbery shelters hoping to attract the very best in feathered entertainment.    

Nonetheless, as a rule, we are instead rewarded with a large number of a very small variety of birds – the usual Connecticut suburban suspects – plus a constantly turning over population of gray squirrels, the current crop inexplicably brandishing scraggly, russet colored tails.
The deciduous, spiny plant in the family Rosaceae however was not one of our bird-seducing efforts.  Its existence predated our occupancy by at least as many years as it took to get to its full height and – thanks to the non-horticulturally inclined former owner – pretty out of control.
Some of my first substantial battle scars as a plantsman were earned attempting to bring order and a sense of symmetry to this well-armed, crisscrossing tangle of branches that were too thick to snip and too intertwined to saw.  Several times I backed into it while learning the pattern for mowing my lawn.  Ultimately I reached a state of peace with it where with one or two modest pruning frenzies each year I am able to keep it under control and largely out of my way.
And last year, for the first time ever, the quince bore enough fruit to actually create quince jam – although we didn’t do it.  The Director of the historical society of which we are members is a Revolutionary War re-enactor cook and she made the fruit spread, of which we got several jars, using an 18th century recipe.  It was, we understand, quite an effort and quite good.  We greatly appreciated it
It is however our second visit from the orange-and-black, east coast, uber-finches in the thirty-six years we have lived at this address.  The first one came, as we recall, several years ago and lasted just about long enough for the two of us, who were sitting at our dining room table having lunch, to sense the violent movement within the delicate salmon-reddish flowers (close enough in color to the bird’s feathers to provide camouflage) and to look up in time to see the flashy interloper’s rapid departure.
This time I was alone working out in the yard when I glanced up to see one orange and black bird flitting out of our yard in that up-and-down flying style that birds such as goldfinches favor.  Marsha was volunteering down at the society and I told her about it when she returned home.   

Shortly thereafter we were having lunch – this time in the family room with a slightly different view of the quince – when she noticed movement amidst the flowers.  We crept slowly to the window and were able to see portions of three Baltimore Orioles apparently satisfying their sweet tooth while skillfully avoiding impalement.  After five of so minutes they flew off one at a time – the last one alighting on the taller, bushier quince of our neighbor across the street.  They have not been back since.
Our guess is that they were migrating though.  All three looked to be males and based on the influx of robins, cardinals and sparrows over the preceding weeks we suspect that most of the good rental space is taken.
In unrelated news: the other day Marsha saw a hawk checking out our property.  Hopefully the predator pair who resided in our corner oak tree last year is looking to return for another season.  Their old room has not been redecorated and is available.
And while the orioles were scavenging in the quince, a male catbird was rummaging through the leaves and twigs beneath the bush presumably looking for building materials.  We have had a catbird couple around our premises for as many years back as we can remember.  A couple of times I’ve stumbled across their nest atop one of our taller, thicker shrubbery, but most of the time we have no idea where they actually hang out.
We do know however that these slate-gray mockingbirds love to dine at our berry buffet and to scold us loudly when we interrupt their mealtime.  It’s all part of the cycle of nature in our backyard. 
The next evening one of the orioles returned to the quince.  They have not been seen since then.
And so it goes.

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