Guest Author - Nancy Hertzel
Last weekend, I went to visit a friend who lives in a new (expensive) development of 500 homes positioned around a golf course. She had recently purchased a bird feeder and became very excited when some birds showed up; she had asked me to come out and identify them for her.
As I drove past the guard at the gate and into the development, it became quickly obvious that this was not the sort of place any self-respecting thrush, warbler, wren, or owl would ever wander into; each lovely house had a perfect green yard, rose bushes, small ornamental trees, and not a weed, clover, or spider to be seen. This was strictly House Sparrow and Starling territory. The lawns had clearly all been poisoned with weed-and-feed and the roses sprayed heavily with pesticides. Nothing could look this gorgeous and blemish-free without a lot of chemical application.
And of course, that is what we saw at her feeder - a flock of House Sparrows and a bunch of Starlings waddling around the golf course. That was it.
My friend is a good, kind person who has never questioned the lifestyle she is living, which is shared by so many others; and she was genuinely wondering why she couldn’t attract something more interesting than House Sparrows. The reality is, she is living in the middle of a sea of poison. As I sat on her beautiful deck and looked out at the manicured “perfection” of all the green grass, I wondered, when did it become so desirable to do this to the earth? This housing development really could be anywhere in the United States - they all look the same from the east coast through the great plains and out to the west coast - big houses, green lawns, rose bushes. Ideally, we should be able to tell what part of the country a house is in by the plants and wildlife in its yard. How great it would be if we each planted shrubs, trees, and grasses native to our particular area of the country, encouraging the birds, bugs, and butterflies of our region to come and live in our yard, to co-exist with us and sing to us on a spring morning.
With all the clear-cutting, developing, and loss of habitat we humans are responsible for, it seems the very least we can do is try to replace some of what we have taken away for those who have to live outside in the trees and on the ground, and find food wherever they can, rather than drench the soil and roots with poisons, and plant exotic bushes that none of our native wildlife has any use for.