Category Archives: Local

Birds galore as the solstice approaches

Over the past several days our yard and neighborhood have been rich with a variety of birds. Many of the birds seem to be finding relatively natural sources of food. I currently only have one hummingbird feeder and a suet feeder stocked.

Among the birds I’ve seen include many Dark-eyed Juncos and American Robins, roving flocks of Bushtits, a few American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins, and a couple of Western Scrub Jays.

The Goldfinches and Juncos seem to be interested in seeds from last summer’s flowers. At least one Robin was gleaning berries from a juniper. The Bushtits work the trees and shrubs and mob the suet feeder. Two or more Anna’s Hummingbirds jockey for control of the feeder.


Early lunch for a Red-tailed Hawk

I had a little extra time this morning and took my camera and binoculars out looking for Trumpeter Swans. We often have a few in the valley this time of year, but it’s hit or miss. I drove out along Pioneer Way, River Road, Stewart, 66th Avenue, and Gay Road. I was striking out early, but chanced upon a Red-tailed Hawk fairly low in a tree along Gay Road. It stayed put when I stopped and rolled down the window.

As I got my camera up and ready, I noticed it was eating something. I started snapping a few pictures and noticed that part of the hawk’s meal was dangling from the branch. I focused on that and saw that it was a fish head! Then I saw the tail on the other side of the branch attached to a spine that had been picked pretty clean.

I’ve never heard that Red-tails are adept fishers, but maybe they are. More likely though is it found a carcass that had been abandoned and took it to a nearby tree for an easy meal.

Red-tailed Hawk with fish carcass

After attracting the attention of a nervous resident in an Army Ranger jacket, I decided to move on rather than tempt fate.

Continuing back onto River Road then back over to Pioneer, I noticed a group of large white birds in the distance from 52nd Street. With my binoculars I confirmed a flock of about twenty swans too distant to photograph or sort out species, but I would guess the majority would be Trumpeters. Like in past years, they congregated near the railroad tracks that parallel Pioneer. The elevated road bed for the tracks make it so they are not visible along most of Pioneer, and where they are visible it is only a peek-a-boo view.

I drove back onto 66th, and stopped at the Pierce Conservation District office. I asked if they had a view of the field in question. Mike Baden of the PCD accompanied me out to the back of the facility and told me the extent of their property. He then left me to it and I proceeded to walk along a fence row hoping to find an open view. Once again I got just peek-a-boo views of the swans, and finally had to turn around as the soil in the field got softer and softer. Shoulda worn boots!


Wildlife First

In recent weeks there have been two stories in the papers about wildlife threats to pets. One was local, the other from another part of the country. The wildlife in one story was coyotes, in the other, raccoons. In both stories, family pets had been killed and badly wounded in encounters with these animals. In both stories there was much hand-wringing about how to protect pets and children from marauding predators.

I have a plan for people concerned about the safety of family and beloved household companions. First, do not let your small children or pets outside unsupervised. Never allow pets to just roam the neighborhood. Second, do not leave food for pets outside. It will attract the aforementioned animals, not to mention rats, opossums, et al. Third, keep your garbage in a tightly closed container in a secure location. Fourth, if you feed birds, set your feeders up in such a way as to be inaccessible to undesirable wildlife. There are many clever devices on the market to assist you. Clean up beneath your feeders regularly.

As to my first point, it is especially common for cats to be allowed to roam. There are many problems with this. Not only are cats easy prey for predatory wildlife, if they happen upon a cat-hating dog the result could be the same. A fight with another cat can end badly as well. How often have you seen a dead cat by the side of the road? I don’t think many of them died from natural causes. Also, I hope you keep your cuddly kitty up to date on vaccinations for those random encounters with other domestic felines, or worse, feral cats.

So far, I’ve only mentioned the dangers to cats roaming, but there are other problems. About twenty years ago I acquired a beautiful male grey tabby cat. He was a stray, brought home by my then roommate. At the time he was my only model for cat care, and he always let his cats roam. So I let Billy roam. I thought, “This is great! He barely ever uses the litter box.” What I didn’t really think about was what he wasusing. The neighbor’s flower bed, or a child’s sandbox for example. I imagine he found all sorts of wonderful scratching posts around the neighborhood as well. Years later, when a landlord told me Billy would need to be kept inside, I was unhappy about the inconvenience, but I eventually learned that it was for his own welfare, and I had been selfish by letting him roam free. A smart veterinarian would tell you the same thing.

Then there is the damage they do to native songbirds and small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels. Domestic cats stalk these animals not because they need to eat, but because it is their instinct to do so. So, well fed, pampered pets hunt down and kill wild birds that are just trying to survive and feed their young. Millions of them die this way every year.

Many communities already have laws about roaming animals. They just aren’t always applied to cats. Here is part of the law in my town:

8.12.020 Impounding authority – Care.

It is unlawful for the owner or person having control or custody of any dog, cat, or other animal to allow such dog, cat, or other animal to enter or trespass upon private property without the express permission of the owner or caretaker of such property. Any such dog, cat or other animal may be seized and impounded. (Ord. 2463 § 1, 1995; Ord. 293 § 3, 1904)

In the end I have just this to say: Take care of your pets. Be responsible and protect them. I will feel sorry if I hear that your dog or cat died in some horrible and unnecessary way, but you, the pet owner, will get little sympathy from me.