My first experiment with my new toy, the Reconyx Hyperfire HC600 Trail Cam, has come to a close.
In that time, I was able to attract (in order of prevalence): Finches, a Stellar’s Jay, and some other bird I can’t identify–we’ll call him Feathered Friend Unknown #1.
Despite the generous helping of Cheetos, the crows avoided my feast. Apparently, Cheetos are like crack for just about everyone, but crows have very long memories, and I imagine this one might remember (or have been told by his father) about the epic drubbing one of their kind received years ago when he snuck in our chicken coop to steal an egg and was trapped there for several hours. FYI, chickens can kick the stuffing out of other birds!
I may need to relocate my camera to a crow-safe location…
In terms of food popularity, here are the rankings:
- Puffed Cheetos
- Dried Pasta
- Hard boiled eggs (nobody finished this)
- Turkey Bologna (nobody did more than poop on this)
We know Americans LOVE carbs, but even our birds seem to prefer them. In fact, they ate the Cheetos so quickly I’m concerned that the woods are filled with the winged and obese, their branches bending under the added weight of the plumped and plumed. Note to self: next time try Pirate’s Booty.
My initial success attracting crows ended as soon as I set up my coop cam. Out of 2,136 frames, my avian feast earned me a mere fly-by.
As I swept the peanuts from the top of the coop late last night, I was niggled by the recollection that crows cache their food, have better long term memory than some undergrads, and are able to find their hiding places months later and without an iPhone. I have visions of my husband years from now, working his tractor, pulling the auger from post holes, revealing those peanuts germinated, that a tangle of vines the size of a roll of barbed wire with the complexity of the London Tube now lies beneath the driveway undermining the very structure.
Since removing the sugar from my diet, even the birds have benefitted. I reloaded the roof with healthier snacks (cherry tomatoes, three Newman’s ginger cream cookies, a plain bagel, a bag of ranch-flavored kale chips, and birdseed) and reset the camera.
In the first few hours of the morning, I had less than 1% of the visitors who usually fly in for breakfast. I expect Coop Cam will next show my little guests giving me the feathered finger.
Working out the kinks in the system, I discover the combination of a ready food supply (peanuts and roof scraps) and Tristram Shandy–“the turkey formerly known as Steve”–has drummed up some local color. A wild tom turkey appears from somewhere in the scrubby undergrowth of the woods near Comptche.
The two toms stamp, gobble, and peck to establish territorial dominance and the air is fraught with tension. Like a scene from the Ok Corral, everyone else has run and waddled to safety.
Separated by a fence, I can nonetheless see that the newcomer is intimidated. He is trying to work out in his head how big Tristram really is and if he really does, “move like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Not only is Tristam’s snood longer, pinker, but his plumage is also far more glorious. Plump, privileged by diet, breeding, and five inches of packed sand beneath his feet, Tristram impresses by size alone.
Stamping feet and feinting heads and a fence keeps anyone from real harm, but the intent is palpable. One of the barred rocks runs for cover in an old dog house. “I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta go,” she seems to cry. A few seconds later, I hear the distinctive “bock-bok-bok” chorus she begins which is soon picked up by all the others, an instinctive gambit used when a hen is vulnerable and laying an egg. It confuses predators who don’t know which way to turn. The noise grows like a flashmob. Even the toms do their bit, punctuating their gobbling with the occasional “bok, bok” noises to reinforce the message,” Hey, these muscles aren’t just for show, baby.”
Moving closer with my camera, I note the spurs on the wild turkey. My husband had warned me, “better carry a stick in case it attacks you.” I remember our first rooster, Sawyer, and the ongoing battle for dominance as Steve walked the yard, stick in hand. His lecture on “which comes first, the sticken’ or your leg,” was met with my dismissal.
Like Saint Francis of Assisi, I carry no sticks..
On the downhill side of the coop, the battle reaches its conclusion.
I swear I hear a worried gulp as Conan the Comptche-rian assesses Tristram, sees his remarkable snood, his impressive wattle, his resplendent barrel chest reminiscent of the Kaiser Wilhelm. From his lowly position in the ditch, Conan can’t help but experience his inadequacy, despite my entreaty: “his spurs are tiny, you can take him.” Sadly, he runs for the woods like an overwhelmed voter before the primaries. I remind him of David and Goliah, of Winston Churchill and WWII, and I hope he regroups, brings his cronies, faces fear with fact.
Thinking of Donald Trump’s reaction last night in response to Marco Rubio’s comments on Trump’s “hand size,” I wonder when this boorishness and bravado became a standing part of public discourse, am reminded once again that everything I need to know about humans, I learned from an animal.
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