Watch out for the critters

Animal behavior fascinates me. From the window at my daughter’s house, I saw a robin in the backyard fluttering around the backyard fence tugging and pulling. What was he pulling on so mightily?

I squinted my eyes before I realized he held a strand of a very long rope in his beak. That bird worked to get that rope to build a nest with enough rope for a dozen or more nests. No way could he drag that long rope to his nest. Still, it took him a while to give up and search elsewhere for nest building materials.

That rope definitely did not make the list of anyone’s “helpful hints of ways to help our fine feathered friends during nest building season.” I’ve seen those lists often, “Be nice to the birds. Leave out dryer lint, bits and pieces of yarn or pet hair.” I have tossed a few strands of embroidery floss on tree branches. The birds ignored them; maybe because the birds already know the caution issued by the St. Francis Wildlife (SFW), “DO NOT offer yarn, string or human hair for birds to build nests!”

“What! Why not?” I sputter in astonishment.  Well the SFW explains that they have seen wild birds with all those items wrapped around their legs and feet.

Just when I think I am being helpful, I am not. 

So this spring, I read SFW’s, “You don’t help when you do that. Also DO NOT offer laundry dryer lint. It will soak up water and may be steeped with chemicals unhealthy for birds, such as remnants of detergent and softener.”

Well then, pet fur? I mean they are just animals like the birds, right?

No. “If your pets are treated with flea/tick treatments … this can be harmful to birds collecting it for nesting material.  DO NOT offer pet hair that has been exposed to any chemicals,” says St. Francis Wildlife.

I just want to be helpfully involved in building this year’s nest, but the SFW adds insult to injury and tells me to butt out. “Birds have plenty of natural materials for nest building: twigs, dried leaves, grass and flower stems, pine straw, shed snake skins, Spanish moss, lichen, etc.” In other words the little birdies do not need me around for anything! The best I can do is nothing. SFW says to exclude such things as “chemical pesticides on their food supply.”

Sounds like the honey bee lovers who say, “don’t mow your lawn too early in the year. All those little flowers are the bees’ primary source for making honey early in the year.” Some of those flowers look like weeds to me.

Oh yes, SFW adds one more caution, “And keep your cat inside! especially during the baby (bird) season.”

Say what! Keep the cat inside? I read that before the eclipse. “Keep your pets inside. Some pets might copy humans looking up at the sun and damage their eyes.”  As the child and grandchild of dairy farmers that amused me. I responded, “Be sure to bring in the herds of cows, sheep and goats. Don’t worry about chickens during eclipses; they think the darkening skies mean night has come so they go to their roosts.” 

We do get swept up in protecting animals and forget that they managed quite well before humans took over. 

I know all that. I get it. Still better safe than sorry. So, I put my pet fly under a tinted glass until the eclipse passed to protect its compound eyes from too much sun.  Amazingly, it buzzed around in there. It sounded just like it wanted out. Fascinating.