Rufus-sided Towhee

moon phase Week of 06/08/2003 Favorable days for planting flowers

Before I go to bed each night, I step outside to take in some night air. On a clear night the stars and moon may give me a picture to carry into my dreams. The night sounds of the frogs and a whip-poor-will sing to me their beautiful lullabies.

Rufus-sided Towhee

One night last week, in the dark stillness, I heard a low humming which reminded me of a large fan. I followed the sound to a good-sized box elder tree at the edge of the yard. Looking up through the branches, I made out the buzzing bodies of hundreds of June bugs. There were so many that the tree was alive with their humming wings. How fitting, I thought, to see and hear so many June bugs on the first night of June.

Last week I decided I could live with the one woodchuck that had moved into the shed. However, as of yesterday, there are five of those furry fat members of the squired family. That makes five reasons to worry about my garden. The beans and corn are planted, but not up yet. If I want corn and beans to eat this summer, I have to do something about the woodchucks right now. They won't hesitate to nibble off the new veggies before they can grow six inches high.

The woodchucks will eat a variety of green leafy plants. If it tastes good, they eat it, making them true vegetarians. If there's a woodchuck around, chances are you will see him. They are most active during the day. This afternoon, I watched all five of them munching on clover in the yard. They also have a taste for the cow parsnip near the creek. When I noticed one of the smaller ones eating the new marigolds, I ran outside and scared them back into the shed. If only I could explain to them that they are welcome to whatever else they can find to eat, but the garden is off-limits. They think I planted the garden and flowers just for them.

I've placed a live trap on top of the pile of boards in the shed. For me it's the only way to save my garden. There was a time when I would have taken much more drastic measures. I have even been known to bake a woodchuck in the oven with some nice vegetables. That was long ago, and these days I literally would not kill a fly. Mother Nature has taught me to walk softly and respect all living things.

At the edge of the woods, there is a patch of Virginia waterleaf. They remind me of wild geraniums, but have smaller flowers. At first, it was the pretty lavender flowers that caught my eye. Then I spotted a beautiful male Rufus-sided Towhee, kicking through the dry leaves to uncover insects. These lovely songbirds are about the size of a red-winged blackbird, and have a longish tail. Summer wouldn't be the same for me without the song of the Towhee: "drink-your-tea."

Fortunately, I had a pair of binoculars along, and I brought him up to where I could see his ruby-red eyes. He is one of the few birds I know of with red eyes. Those that come to mind are the loon, the American coot, the night heron, the gos, cooper's, and sharp-shinned hawks, and the red-eyed vireo.

I'll keep you posted on the woodchuck situation next week.

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