Saturday, April 17, 2010

Starling emergencies? Rat berries.

   Despite my continuing warfare against the Starlings, they come one by one to try to build onto the nest that I have already taken out twice.  Today a very sly female kept escaping my sights by flying directly into the hole without landing first, each time with a load of pine needles from a neighbor's yard..
  After all the martins had left around midday to feed, I lowered the rack to pull out all of the materials the starling had brought in and lo and behold there was a warm sky blue egg .  I guess it just got to a point whereby she just could not hold it anymore even though she was still building onto the nest,  It might be similar to one of us having sudden diarrhea on a city bus during rush hour.  Something is gotta be unloaded whether you want it so or not,  the consequences you'll just have to deal with after the fact.......But then maybe it is not like that at all. I am not a starling..

   Lori was telling me how she watched as a starling fought with a Golden-fronted Woodpecker over a nest cavity with the starling eventually killing the woodpecker before she could get to them to save it.   I had the  same thing happen with a Red-bellied Woodpecker in Austin many years ago in my front yard.   There was an old tree with a dead snag that the woodpecker had chosen to make a cavity.  Every day for what seemed to be a month or more the woodpecker chipped away at that hole, then suddenly there was a pair of woodpeckers there ready to set up shop.
  I came home from work one day and found the male dead and bloodied at the base of the tree which really bummed me out.   I went inside feeling horrible and just as I got into the living room, I looked out the picture window to see a starling fly to the hole with a beak full of grass.  I was livid!....And even though I lived well within the city  limits I blew that bird to pieces with a .410 shotgun as soon as I had the first opportunity.(This was in the late 70's)  I am sure that shot stunned everyone in the otherwise quiet  neighborhood, but I did not own a pellet gun at the time and frankly did not care in my rage.
   Starlings are blamed for the ghastly decline of the once abundant Red-headed Woodpecker in the US.

  Two of the four folks that I birded with yesterday afternoon were back in town hoping for a repeat of yesterday's great fallout of birds.   The winds had settled a lot and were from the south.  I birded with them for perhaps an hour and fifteen minutes before having to get back to the house.   In contrast to all the birds we saw yesterday, there were virtually no migrants in town at all today.  In fact it was very slow with only an Indigo Bunting or Orchard Oriole here and there to hint that migration continues.

  We stopped by the same famous mulberry tree as yesterday but there were no migrants in it, only those damn starlings, but we picked and ate a few berries.   Now across the street from this tree is another fruiting tree growing tall directly against the wall of a dilapidated old house where a junk collector an strange lady  lives.   We saw a couple of Indigo Buntings in that tree which gave us something to look at.   The crazy lady was not home.
  As we were looking at the tree we saw some other movement in there and after several seconds realized they were RATS running out and collecting berries in broad daylight!.  Maybe 4 of them. We saw one of them get a berry return and run into a hole under the eaves of the lady's house!!  The place is one huge junk pile and there is no telling how many rats are living there. And she does not like cats??   Maybe it is sort of a good thing for me as a birder that we have a good rat supply not far away as we do enjoy our Great Horned and Barn Owls and I bet they know all about this property and those plump well fed rats..

  I pretty am sure the rats know about Louise Echol's tree as well and in addition she feeds birds seed in the backyard.  I have to bet that a few rats live with this kind old widow woman too.  Needless to say, the couple I was with also saw the rats and the older lady (Grace) that said she had not tasted a berry since she was 12-13 did not touch another berry off the tree despite it being loaded with ripe fruit.   I have seen these rats (Roof Rats) in the mulberry trees before on occasion so it was not a shock to me.  Hey they are really good berries and of the course squirrel people love them and they are just bushy  tailed rats....even Laughing Gulls will feast on them at times..

   I only saw one other birder today.  A fellow out on the beach with a scope.  We did not cross paths.  Don't know if he was associated with the TOS meeting in Rockport or not..  Out of town birders are a rare sight in POC especially when there is no migration.

  Some sort of big motorcycle (murdercycle) event was going on at the park today so it has been a very noisy day around here.

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