Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Do Wars Start? Stay Tuned

As far as the City of New York is concerned the house and property listed at my address belongs to my husband and I. While we agree that the house, or at least the inside of the house, is our private, personal property, the same cannot be said about the outside areas of our property. We share these areas with a wide variety of wildlife, all of whom consider us as the interlopers, not themselves. We've had a truce in place for many years; we don't go after them and they mostly don't come after us.

This spring is shaping up to be just a tad different. This morning there was a preview of World War III going on in the yard, along with a reenactment of West Side Story. Some of those involved are residents of long standing in our yard and in the woods that border the back of the yard. Some of the actors were newbies to the 'hood, a few seeming ready to take up permanent residence, and a few who dropped in for a while to be where the action is. It's been raining for a few days and the grass is lush with delicacies for our feathered residents. Most of the trees have started to bud out and many of the bushes are wearing a new spring coat. The yard seems to be proclaiming "Let all who are hungry come and eat." There is surely enough out there for everyone.

This spring one of the squirrels who resides in a tree at the back of the property has been acting really squirrely--in common parlance, he's got a screw loose. The squirrel has taken to haunting the yard, digging frenetically every few feet. We have no idea what he could have buried or hidden under the grass; frankly, we don't think he knows either, but dig he does. Under normal circumstances our squirrels have no problems when the birds come down to feed; there's plenty of room for everyone. But this squirrel has been acting decidedly territorial. He's basically telling the birds that they are no longer welcome in what he has claimed as his country. And the birds aren't buying this. Until this morning they more or less were responding with a lot of raised voices and birdly cussing. You could almost imagine them singing "There's a place for us. Somewhere a place for us." They grumpily would wait until the squirrel moved off up the hill until they entered the yard.

I've seen a lot of robins in my lifetime and they can vary in size, but generally they are what we recognize as robin-sized. This morning an uber-Robin showed up, a robin on steroids. Think of those big pigeons that populate parking lots and you're still not thinking large enough. And this robin came loaded for bear--or squirrel as the case may be. Hostilities were no longer going to be of the verbal kind.

The robins were gathered on top of the fence and the squirrel was foraging on the lawn when the muscleman robin decided that it was time for action. He hopped down onto the grass and began looking for breakfast. The squirrel, tail raised high as a battle flag, began his approach to the robin. And the robin didn't budge. Not only didn't he budge but he managed to spear one of the largest worms I've ever seen. And calmly and in seemingly no hurry he began to enjoy his breakfast feast. As the squirrel approached the robin, the robin flung what was left of the worm at the squirrel and flew back up to the top of the fence. I'm not sure who was more surprised, the squirrel or I. This was an "in your face" gesture of ultimate magnitude.

At this point I decided to play the allied forces or Officer Krupke, depending on which scenario appeals more to you, and I went out into the yard. The two warring parties were not yet ready to flee but they did retreat a bit. And there I was, a rational human being (at least that's what they tell me) lecturing furry and feathered warriors on the behavior I expected of them if they were coming into MY yard. My neighbor, taking out her garbage, was convulsed in laughter on the other side of the fence. Well, let her laugh. It worked. As I write this the squirrel is off in one corner of the yard and the birds are in another corner. On consideration, both sides decided that waging war over a few yards of ground was just not worth would it might cost them.

Now if only human beings could learn that lesson.


Rachmiel said...

Seriously, if you ever put your house up for sale put me on the list to see it. Your feuding animals is a lot better then the feuding neighbors I've got now.

Anonymously said...

No offense meant but it sounds like maybe you need a vacation when you start refereeing bird battles.