Whitesburg KY
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Birds don’t like hard rock or country music, either

Points East


I take a great deal of time and do a lot of tasking to make sure that upwards of 30 species of songbirds and woodpeckers make it through the winter and that finches, doves and hummingbirds have no quarrel with starvation in warm weather.

But I hate blackbirds, meaning grackles, starlings and cowbirds, with a passion. They are vermin worse than scabby old sewer rats as far as I am concerned. I will tolerate red-wing blackbirds because they are pretty but only as long as they do not become obnoxious and cause trouble for the birds I like.

I usually don’t have much trouble with vermin birds around my feeders because at least two mockingbirds and six bluejays hold them in the same esteem. The mockingbirds and jays sometimes fuss with one another but they signed a “peace at the feeder” treaty several years ago after joining forces against the vermin, so rarely is a blackbird seen in my front lawn.

However this treaty has to do just with the front yard. It does not include my vegetable garden. As far as the jays and mockers are concerned, the garden does not exist. In fact, they seem to be of the opinion that I’ve planted it specifically for the blackbirds.

I have found that a few fake snakes placed on the ground – the kind that wiggle and twist a bit when the sun warms them up – are sufficient to fool the birds long enough for my beans and sweet corn to sprout and take root enough that they can’t pull up the seedlings.

And up until this year a fake owl perched on a fence post and a makeshift scarecrow have been enough to keep the birds at bay come harvest time.

However, the wind blew away my owl and a new one costs over 30 bucks. And the scarecrow in my garden is to blackbirds as statues of dead presidents are to pigeons in Washington D.C. It is a convenient place for them to light, scan the cornrows and figure out which ear of corn they should next devour.

Shucking an ear of corn still on the stalk takes some doing even for a raccoon, but a dozen or so blackbirds working together can manage the task in a matter of minutes. Last week I discovered that they had polished off about 100 ears before I realized the invasion had even commenced.

I called two different farm supply stores and found enough bird netting to cover my corn patch was going to cost over 100 bucks. Loretta was on the road but she located a huge owl with a doddle head while searching for netting. I declined the owl because I figured that if they had caught on to the scarecrow they didn’t need another pricey place to sit atop and poop.

I worried about this until the wee hours Thursday night. Finally, out of desperation I came up with the idea that noise might do the trick. I’d heard they were using cannons to scare them out of roosts in Lancaster.

I don’t have a cannon but over the years my kids have gone through several boomboxes. Every time a new feature came out such as cassette to CD to multiple CD to mega bass to big as a truck bed, both Jennifer and Christopher set sights on the newest and biggest gadget.

Loretta found an old Sony Mega Bass in Christopher’s room rated at 150 watts. Unfortunately it required more D cell batteries than we had on hand and filling it up would have cost about as much as the aforementioned owl. However, I had a 150-foot power cord in the garage which turned out to be almost exactly the length I needed to stretch from front porch to corn patch.

Just after midnight Friday morning, I turned two five-gallon buckets upside down, placed them side by side just inside the corn patch and out of bird sight, plugged in the radio, tuned it to an acid rock station and ran the volume way up.

Back on the porch I simply unplugged the radio and went to bed.

My alarm went off at 6:30 and by 7:00 I was sitting on the front porch reading the paper and sipping my coffee. Around 7:15 the sky literally blackened with birds and a flock of perhaps 500 veered off and made a beeline for my corn. Within seconds nearly every corn tassel had a bird perched on it. Then they began going straight to work on the ears of sweet bodacious.

I plugged the power cord into the outlet and at first it sounded like thunder. The drum solo from Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Gadda Da Vida”. The earth trembled and the corn swayed. And above it all was the terrified screeching of blackbirds and the thumping sounds they made colliding with one another. Tiny little black feathers rained from the sky for several minutes.

Suffice to say that we haven’t seen a blackbird in the garden since, nor did the normal morning and evening clouds of birds appear over the weekend. After deciding that hard rock was bit much for the neighbors several hundred yards down Charlie Brown Road, I did switch to a country station. So far Garth Brooks is having the same effect as Iron Butterfly.


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