Monday, April 5, 2010

Backyard ecology

I love birds, and feed them year-round in sight of my windows.

I love cats, have four, and let them out year-round.

I live in the country where predators that eat birds and cats, and raid bird feeders, prowl the area year-round.

How to keep everybody alive and well?

First, I cleared the shrubs away from the front of the house. That eliminated places for the cats to hide and ambush feeding birds. I also hung trellis netting over the exterior of as many windows as I could get to, which prevents birds from flying into the glass. These two acts have almost entirely eliminated bird fatalities. And bringing in the feeders every evening has eliminated raids.

Second, we trained the cats to come in at night, though it remains difficult to keep them in during the crepuscular time (dawn and dusk), which is the true danger zone. Nevertheless, we haven't had an injury or disappearance in many years.

Third, we have a lot of stuff around the property -- vehicles, construction material piles, scrap piles, tools, and equipment -- which partially serve as territorial markers that repress predator traffic (while giving prey places to hide). It's not foolproof by any means; after all, I see fox and coyote prints sometimes quite close to the house during winter, and during the year the fishers passed through, they roamed wherever they pleased. I dread the day they return.

Nevertheless, we've done what we can do to minimize opportunity for critters to kill themselves and each other. This includes using no toxic substances in the garden or yard. The rest is up to fate or vigilance. In reward, we harbor many species of resident birds, the cats are healthy and happy, and our human selves get to enjoy the whole.

If only that balance extended to the rest of the world!

Carolyn Haley

Author: The Mobius Striptease (e-novel, Club Lighthouse Publishing)
Open Your Heart with Gardens
(nonfiction, DreamTime Publishing)
First-year blog archives at
Editing Business: DocuMania (

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