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Thursday, May 04, 2017


The running commentary on the Passing Scene holds a certain appeal for many people. Varying from the usual economic, social and political fare, however, promotes a heightened level of interest. A Johnny One Note will undoubtedly become monotonous.

Try this.

Outside the kitchen window birds flock to the feeders competing for the best morsels in town. By and large, the competition works out satisfactorily.

As the North Dakota spring warms toward summer a general change in behavior takes place in nature’s realm brought on not only by the birds, but also by the bees. Take the occurrence with grackles for instance. Whereas there was a time when those feathered fiends were to be despised, today bygones can just as well be bygones.

Once upon a time grackles earned some ugly and highly uncomplimentary comments. Those black, obnoxious critters with their cocky, iridescent heads were regarded unkindly as the Darth Vaders of the bird feeders. Fortunately they never faced the wrath of a pellet gun.

Grackles were always worthy of a minimum of ire. For starters, they constantly conducted themselves like bullies. Four or five grackles would often gang up on one feeder crowding out all the other birds.

Grackles pushed their way into any situation forcing the other birds to retreat from the feeders. Then they rummaged through the edibles throwing good feed on the ground until they found just the right sunflower seed. Typically this would go on until they ate their fill. Only then did they move on leaving their trash behind them.

This year brought the anticipated return of the grackles from the south. Of course, the grackles haven’t changed. They still behave in their brutish, hoggish ways. However, this year something noticeable occurred. Grackles displayed exceptional merit by cleaning up the tailings beneath the feeders left behind by the winter foraging of other birds.

By now the scene is set. At this point there ascends to the feeders another naughty nuisance. Hail villain number two, the pesky squirrel who has just finished eating all the peanuts strewn on the ground and is still hungry. This guy is otherwise known as the Fuzzy Bottom Boy. I’ve never dealt successfully with this raider of the lost art.

Although not as rambunctious as the grackles, nevertheless, squirrels are just as uncouth and no more genteel in their eating habits. Inevitably seed goes flying everywhere until just the right tidbit is found.

Enter one squirrel oblivious to his trespassing upon grackle turf, so to speak. Unaware of his pending fate, a better choice of bird feeders in the yard might have saved him some embarrassment. If only he knew what was in store for him.

As the squirrel mounted the nearest feeder he couldn’t help annoying a couple of grackles. Annoyed but not perturbed, the grackles acted a bit surprised and moved a few feet higher in the tree branches to observe. Then, squawking uncouthly as they do, it was apparent the birds had grown more incensed and irritated with the intruder by the minute.

After all, these grackles had flown the long distance from Mississippi to spend a mild summer in North Dakota. They were not about to let some flea-bitten rodent spoil their vacation.

As I watched from the kitchen window, a grackle flew off, wheeled about and then charged the squirrel. As if on cue, another grackle took off and swooped in, and then another, and another. In moments, at least six grackles were attacking and making sport of the squirrel.

For his part, the squirrel realized only too late what was happening. He jumped from one feeder to another. He wasn’t about to forego a meal although he was rather defenseless while trying to eat. However, he was not immediately intimidated.

At one point the squirrel hung upside down beneath a feeder presenting a tempting target to his adversaries. Before the squirrel eventually ran off for safer ground, a robin amazingly joined the assault.

This act of aggression is not unique in the annals of aviary-dom. But for this North Dakota backyard bird watcher, it was a first.

Darth Vader is still as intimidating as he looks!


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at P. O. Box 337, Stanley, ND 58784 or (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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