Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Persistent Sparrow

Having a purple martin colony has its joys and its pains. One of the pains comes in the form of a tiny bird known as the English Sparrow. This non-native bird was introduced into the United States back in the mid 19th century to "aid people against the encroachment of insects." Little did they know that this introduction was the beginning of something ireversible and detrimental to our native songbirds. As W.L. Dawson wrote in 1903 "Without question the most deplorable event in the history of American ornithology was the introduction of the English Sparrow."
Over the years I've learned one important lesson while dealing with these "weeds of the air"- they are very persistent, and I don't say that lightly. When they build their nest in a gourd or house it is literally jam packed with grasses, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, etc. to the point that you wonder how the hell they even get inside themselves. I have removed these packed nests only to find within a 24 hour period that they have repacked it. I remove it again.....and they repack it. This goes on over and over again until finally due to my persistence along with the help of my martins pestering them (the sparrows are outnumbered 5 to 1) they finally give in and leave.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Life and Death

Along side Highway 87 in Sabine Pass, TX (as you may have noticed I spend quite a bit of time in this area) I came upon the sun-bleached, scattered bones of an alligator. The skeleton was not whole only consisting of the lower jaw and a few leg bones. It appeared to have been a large one also, because one of the jaw bones measured near 22". Most of the teeth were missing except a few which I collected. Not far from this site I was fortunate to run into a live four foot juvenile alligator in a shallow ditch.It would slowly rise to the surface and suddenly sink into the muck as I would approach. Its mottled brown coloration allowed it to blend in well with the murky bottom of the ditch allowing it to literally disappear each time it would submerge. Minutes later its beady eyes would break the surface and look intently in my direction. There was plenty of food to sustain it in the form of frogs which were hopping everywhere along the fringes of the waterway.

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