Is it my imagination… or is nature miffed with us lately? Even the wildlife is angry.
The two moles tussling with each other, above ground, in the daylight of an early spring afternoon was the first sign of trouble. Was this a portent of the pandemic that would upend the human world? Or were they only fighting over the grubs in the back lawn?
Just weeks later, two male cowbirds battled to the death in a patch of moss in our yard. I’ve witnessed territorial birds before, but this was too extreme for me, so I raced outside to break it up. Alas, I was too late. The loser now lies in a shallow grave in the woods.
As the pandemic hit with even fuller force, the birds switched targets. The Eastern phoebe that has nested above our front door for years flew at my husband when he made the mistake of trying to leave the house. A male American robin then charged me, ready to attack, but seemed to reconsider. Possibly it noticed the size of my foot.
And then there was the Great Nest Standoff in the grape arbor behind our home. This shady shelter is my summer office, but the birds were determined to turn it into a nursery. Honeymooning robins tried three times to build a nest there. I knocked down the first stages of construction twice. The third time, I gave the parents-to-be a taste of what to expect by typing at my outside desk while they bustled above, giving me the occasional side-eye. And yet, they laid eggs in it. And I continued working there, despite the father chasing catbirds and chipmunks away while eyeing my superior size and joining Planet Fitness.
Why are they acting this way? Are they laying claim to the large patch of grub-infested lawn, which seems to be the animal equivalent of a buried chest filled with gold? Are they afraid I’m contagious? Have they realized that humans are responsible for Climate Change, and they won’t take it anymore? Are they panicked about the ongoing drought? Or is this an omen that 2020 will only get worse?
And the Plot Thickens…
Whatever the cause, the angry animals have changed their tactics today, probably after weeks of reading up on David vs Goliath and streaming The Birds on Netflix. They’ve sent in the hornets. I’ve retreated indoors and am nursing a sore forearm that was fine, perfectly fine, when I woke up this morning.
I’m a little nervous about going back outdoors. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the black bears stay neutral.
For photos of, and information about, these birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource.