This I believe…that “appearances can be deceiving,” and anyone can be a fool.

Mary Jo - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 13, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe…

…that “appearances can be deceiving,” and anyone can be a fool.

My husband and I bought a new townhome in Midtown Harrisburg a few years ago. Our patio lies between the house and garage in back, and there’s a narrow slice of sky and a view over our fence that includes, depending on where you’re sitting, the top half of one or two of the very old townhomes across the street.

Last winter, we put a bird feeder in the narrow strip of lawn that runs alongside our house. Over the winter, cardinals, sparrows, doves and the occasional junco used the feeder. This past spring, after the juncos headed north, a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds joined the group at our feeders. As spring progressed, their numbers grew to five, six, sometimes even seven cowbirds at our feeder, and they came every evening just before dusk.

We liked those Brown-headed Cowbirds, even though we knew they were a parasitic breed and would lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. How much damage could five, six or maybe seven cowbirds do? We actually felt a little smug. Hadn’t we brought nature to Midtown?

Meantime, our neighbors bought a new car, which they parked out front by the curb. Often, I’d see the husband out washing that car. Once I joked with him about how often he washed it. His response was an unusual, and somewhat surly, “the car’s dirty, I have to wash it.”

A few weeks later, I came home one evening to find our neighbors sitting on their front porch. I happily joined them for an hour of talk as dusk approached.

Then I noticed the cowbirds. There were hundreds of them. They were all lined up on the electric wires and in the trees, each awaiting its turn at our feeder; and all of them dropping dirt on our neighbors’ cars and homes.

The five, six, maybe seven cowbirds we’d grown somewhat fond of were actually hundreds.

As I sat there and watched them gather, I was appalled and horrified. I felt like Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds” had come to life in my neighborhood.

I asked my neighbors if it was always like this, and they said, “well, ever since you put that feeder up.“

I apologized to them, then went home and took the bird feeder down. The cowbirds dispersed, and I haven’t seen them since.

This I believe… appearances can be deceiving, and five, six or even seven Brown-headed Cowbirds gathered at a feeder don‘t look anything like hundreds of them lined up on a wire. The narrow view we had from our patio led us to believe we were doing good; the reality is that we had been fools.

I plan to put the bird feeder out again in the fall for the winter birds; but at the first squeak of a cowbird in the spring, that bird feeder is going back into the garage.