Years ago, before the word 'amygdala' ever bounced off a phobia therapist's keyboard, I was uncomfortable around creatures with wings. Well, okay, I was terrified of every bird, bee, fly, moth and angel I ran into.
After annoying my neighbors with shrieking, hysterical demands to "COME AND GET THIS GIANT RAPTOR OUT OF MY HOUSE," and once even stopping my car in the fast lane of the freeway to evict a hitchhiking moth, I decided it was time to get over the fear. I reasoned that if I started feeding wild birds, slowly getting used to that freaky fluttering they do, I'd snap out of it... or maybe at least get used to THINGS WITH WINGS.
Short version: It worked. The longer version follows.
During the Great Depression, homeless transients ( known back then as bums) would pass along addresses of kind women who might provide a meal for those down on their luck. I'm pretty sure that tradition still exists among backyard birds as I have hundreds of free-loaders knocking at my door each morning. Or rather, I have every damn blue jay and magpie within 16 blocks tap-dancing and screeching outside my window at 5:30 a.m. to get my lazy ass out of bed and put out the damn peanuts!
I didn't start with peanuts. I started by throwing pieces of squishy Wonder bread up on my garage roof. This arrangement annoyed the hell out of my thrifty and very orderly husband, who was convinced that the bread would: a) rot the gutters (bread being a known toxic, hazardous substance); b) draw ants, mice, snakes, cats, raccoons, squirrels, armadillos and giraffes; and, c) oh yes, cost too damn much. I stuck to my guns and my plan for mental health, though, and my only concession was to buy the bread from the day-old bakery.
The roof bread may have interested a passing possum now and then, but it was my yellow Lab who knew he had died and gone to heaven. As soon as he heard the rustle of the bread wrapper he ran to the carefully calculated spot where an errant chunk would roll off the roof's slope and plop into his waiting chops. He'd stay there for hours, waiting for that final crumb kicked by a clumsy bird.
The birds loved my strategy. The dog loved it. The husband got used to it (although he never stopped bitching about the damage to the gutters?? and he refused to let me throw tuna for the gulls)...and I was cured of my phobia... although now I'm hooked like a crack whore on feeding birds. I haven't been able to stop, and I think I need some "anonymous" group's help. "Hi, I'm Cyn. I spend $1000 a year feeding wild birds."
The only fight I've ever had with my neighbors has been about bird feeding. When I moved here eight years ago, this area had just been developed from agricultural land, and there were thousands of mouse bums who instantly caught on that the crazy lady in the muumuu puts out peanuts every day, and isn't it just peachy to hide them in the tidy garages which are our new, upscale mouse homes, complete with stocked pantries. Up and down the street, door to door in whispers, I was blamed for causing a mouse infestation. What the hell? I didn't CREATE the damn mice and it wasn't my construction that displaced them... and if they're resourceful enough to find the peanuts, well, good for them.
I don't have much to do with my neighbors now.
Since I've lived here, I've fed and housed eight annual crops of baby scrub jays, yellow-billed magpies, 15-pound California crows, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, finches, wild canaries, robins, pigeons, Oregon juncos (migrating each year to my backyard), and those nasty, fat cows everyone thinks are peaceful but are really vicious devils at a feeder... doves. Because there is a bird preserve about five miles away, as the crow flies, I also get curious herons and egrets surveying the scene from the house behind me... although I suspect they may be more interested in the neighbor's koi pond buffet. The 200-year-old oak next door is this year hosting the nest of a pair of Swainson's hawks, with two babies who will soon to learn to fly, and there was even a family of wood ducks in its branches high overhead this spring.
It's great entertainment. The Blue Angels have nothing on blue jays learning to fly -- they're swift, flamboyant and deadly accurate in their aerobatic precision, plus they're argumentative and aggressive, which makes them more fun to watch than F/A-18's. The only downside to my pursuit (besides the poop, of course) is that every time I have my windows cleaned, one or two stupid doves make a point to bash their heads against the glass -- knocking themselves sillier for a minute and leaving a perfect oily imprint on my sliding door.
It's all lovely, pastoral, therapeutic, one with nature, fun and worth every penny I spend.
All except for the single goddamn mockingbird who, for two months a year, whistles, screams, chirps, sings, moans, clicks, tweets, barks like the terrorist terriers next door, and raises a freaking racket for 23 hours a day. What was the name of that book and movie? To Kill A Mockingbird? Harper Lee definitely had the right idea.