Of Bugs and Berries

Image result for red berries in winter

Outside my window snowdrifts

lean against brown wood fences

and cover bare birch branches

like frosted whipped cream

pretty to look at but not to eat.

Where are all the chickadees

after starlings stole the berries

and the birch seed pods

in yesterday’s damp fog

given way to all this snow

now that Christmas is gone?

This is part of a poem I wrote one January day several years ago. I was home with the flu after a week with my sister in her beach cottage on Alligator Point. The ambiance of a quiet winter beach in the Florida Panhandle is nothing like Palm Beach high living. Its simplicity inspired me to write a number of poems that winter which later I gathered into a chapbook, rather aptly titled Winter Musings.

Image result for beach in winter

The setting of “Of Bugs and Berries” is far away from salty beach air, home alone, my sinuses snuffed up by a virus bug. That day, I stood at my bedroom window, facing a row of what I called our berry bushes — four ornamental cherry trees (one of a species of flowering prunus). This particular species produces prolific red berries in late fall. Wild birds love to snack on the berries when they flock down from the Cascade mountains west of us in Central Washington state. Here, a chickadee perches on a cherry branch.

Image result for chickadees in winter

That particular day, however, I was startled by a swarm of starlings that swept through the branches and grabbed every single last berry.

Related image

I banged on the window glass. I yelled. I threatened to call the police.

They paid me no attention but swooshed away as quickly as they had appeared, leaving  nothing behind for the chickadees and juncos, only a mock snowfall that melted in a matter of hours. I never saw them again.

The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) was introduced to New York in the late 1800s. Today they can be found almost anywhere in North America.  Their song is emitted as a disjointed mushy, gurgling hissing chatter with a high-pitched sliding whistle. What I heard through my window glass was simply a mid-pitched sort of growl that ended in a wrrsh sound.

Image result for european starling winter plumage

According to the Audubon Society, no bird “has been more destructive to native wildlife as the European Starling. They push out native cavity nesters like bluebirds, owls, and woodpeckers. Large flocks can damage crops, and their waste can spread invasive seeds and transmit disease.” No wonder we don’t like starlings!

On the other hand, a murmuration of starlings wheeling and darting through the sky in tight, fluid formations can produce quite a visual show.

NEXT WEEK: Winter Birds in My Garden

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: invitationtothegarden

Just short of fifty years of holy matrimony, I am blessed to be a mother of two and grandmother of seven. Much of my writing speaks to the culture and tradition of the Deep South, where I spent the first thirty-five years of my life. This past summer of 2017, I began my third – or is it fourth? – writing career, this time as a blogger with WordPress.com. I’ve just completed a memoir of my mother and our relationship, soon to be published. As a poet and essayist, I’ve published both online and in print media. Last year I was awarded the Tom Pier Prize in a Yakima Coffeehouse Poets anthology, and I’ve completed two chapbooks about Old Florida, Oyster Shells and Yellow Clay Road. Recently some of my work appeared in the online version of All We Can Hold and the tenth anniversary anthology from LiTFUSE. I have written two Bible commentaries and a biography of Paul the Apostle, Firebrand for Christ. In 1999 I retired as a feature writer and news reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic and The Central Washington Catholic, where I was also copy-editor. During my undergraduate years at Florida State University, I majored in English literature and creative writing, and minored in history.

One thought on “Of Bugs and Berries”

  1. Very timely. The poem is lovely and the beach in winter is lovely too. My mother is painting cardinals this week on a snowy branch with berries and we were arguing about the size of the berries, but that is a timeless scene too. We had lots of ugly starlings on the farm – dreadful nasty things.

    Like

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