• Dan FitzPatrick

One For the Birds

I noticed something odd recently. Logan tells me that it has happened before, but if it has while I've been around, I don't recall.

The day before a big snowstorm, dozens and dozens of fat little birds with red bellies (our humans call them "robins") suddenly appeared in our yard, spread all over the place, looking for food. According to Logan, robins eat mainly insects, worms, and berries, though in the winter they will eat most anything they can find.

These robins were very, very busy little workers. I couldn't tell if they were having much success, with the notable exception of the ones who flocked around some tall bushes with shiny, pointed green leaves and small red berries. Logan says the humans call them "holl-ee" bushes. I asked Logan why I haven't seen the birds eating the red berries earlier; after all, they have been on the bushes for some time. He told me that the birds wait until after the weather has been cold enough for a long enough time (he mentioned something about "frosts”, but I didn't really catch it) so that the sugar levels in the berries increase and their bitterness decreases. That made a lot of sense to me.

But that didn't really explain why, all of a sudden, our yard was covered with robins. Why that day?

Once again, I turned to my resident sage. Logan explained that some birds are actually remarkably capable of predicting weather patterns and anticipating upcoming storms. It was no coincidence, he said, that they appeared in our yard just before the big snowstorm. Because accumulated snow prevents them from accessing the ground, potentially for some time, they are wisely stocking up in advance.

Logan also asked if I had noticed, just after a big rainstorm that followed the snowstorm, that the robins had returned in similar numbers? They had waited until the snow had melted and the rain had moistened and softened up the ground, causing the worms to come up to the surface and making their food foraging much easier. The reason why we had seen so many all at once was probably because they were very hungry!

Logan and I don't mind the birds, even when they come in such numbers. We don't bother them, and they don't bother us. Well, except in one small way.

When the birds eat the berries, they (how do I say this delicately?) "eliminate" a lot, all over our yard. It's not a big deal (we fortunately have a large yard), but it's not pleasant.

I mentioned this point to Logan and he told me something interesting. "There's a reason why that actually is a good thing, Cadbury" he said. "You see, the birds digest the fruit of the berry but not the seed it is carrying. When they 'eliminate,' as you say, they deposit the seed on the ground, where it might take root and grow into another bush. Birds fly, as you know, and that seed might get deposited far away from the bush from which it came. That is one way in which nature ensures the spread and future survival of that type of plant. It's actually quite brilliant."

"Other examples of this are all around us. You know those round, fluffy, very delicate, white sort of flowers on long green stems that we find all over the place, usually in the spring? The humans call them 'dandy-lions' (though why they do I do not know; they look nothing like lions). The white part is actually a collection of little seeds attached to a very light structure that easily catches the wind. When the wind comes up, the seeds detach and fly or float through the air, landing on the ground far (sometimes very far) away, taking root and starting the process all over again."

"The neat thing about this," Logan continued, "is that neither you nor I nor even the humans have had anything to do with creating this amazing method of keeping nature going. It just is, and likely always was. Nature has a way of looking out for itself without any help from us. Our job is to enjoy it, and every once in a while, to acknowledge what a gift it is."

"So now, my dear nephew, let's finish this colloquy, and simply appreciate the beauty of this moment. After which, I likely will take a delightful little nap."

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