Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush

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In our backyard, a large mulberry tree provides food and shelter for a variety of birds and animals. Now, in early August, the plump berries are almost gone, but in June and July they were thick on the branches and attracted a rainbow of avian visitors.

During the few weeks that the berries are ripening, the tree is alive with birds: the Baltimore Orioles, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Robins, Grackles, Catbirds, Woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy, Red-Bellied, and sometimes Flicker), Goldfinches and the occasional Scarlet Tanager and Rose-Breasted Grosbeak light up the old mulberry like a Christmas tree. Gray squirrels, hanging by their back toes as they feed, grow increasingly plump as they days and weeks go by. Occasionally one of them will lose its grip and fall clumsily to a lower branch, where it calmly resumes stuffing its little face.

Some of these birds also visit nearby feeders; the resulting diet – suet, seeds, insects, and mulberries – strikes me as a sort of avian pemmican.

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