Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can't Seem To Do The Right Thing

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) (Image from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website)
Twenty years ago, Kali and I established a small ever-blooming rose patch in the middle of our front lawn, replacing a derelict wisteria arbor that was there when we moved in.  In addition to the fact that the arbor had fallen into unsalvageable disrepair, the wisteria plant itself was extremely invasive, sending fibrous roots dozens of feet in all directions and erupting above ground into strangling vines that overwhelmed our planting beds.  I'm still killing errant wisteria plants two decades later.

But back to the roses.  We have to enclose the roses in wire fencing to keep deer from decimating the shrubs, but the fence makes maintenance tasks difficult, so the rose patch is not always the most carefully tended feature of our already marginally tended landscape.  This year, the rose patch was particularly untidy.  I hadn't trimmed the canes back during the winter, so they were long, gangly, and unruly, and thick herbaceous vegetation (i.e., weeds) colonized around the shrubs' bases.  It was unsightly.

So, despite withering temperatures and humidity last Saturday morning, we decided to "tackle the roses before it got too hot." (It was actually too hot even before we set foot out the door.)  We worked for about two hours pulling weeds and subduing the canes until, as we approached the center of the rose patch, I suddenly noticed that a small mound of dried grasses and fluffy lint at the base of one of the roses was rhythmically heaving and making squeaking noises.  Kali told me to stop clearing immediately and to leave it alone, whatever it was.  I think she was looking for an excuse to get out of the sun, but I did stop clearing and worked for another half-hour hauling the weeds and cut canes to the compost pile.  In the process of making several trips to the pile, I noticed that a Gray Catbird was hanging around the roses, sometimes with a caterpillar in its beak.  A-ha!  The mass of dried grasses was a Gray Catbird nest that we had inadvertently tipped out of its nook in the rose canes, and the immature bird(s) were struggling to get free of the overturned nest.

I went into the house to cool off and have lunch, but then decided to go back to the roses to try to return the nest and its occupants to its original nook.  When I went back to the roses and started to try to pick up the nest, I quickly realized that the nest had never been built in the rose canes, it had always been just where it was now, on the ground and carefully tucked into the base of one of the larger, more protective roses, almost like the nest of an Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus).  Weird!  So, I left well enough alone, though the nest, formerly hidden among the weeds and thorns, was now at least half exposed by our meddling.

To make matter worse, while working in another overgrown, weedy patch of the yard about 50 feet from the roses I came across the largest Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) I have ever seen.  I can't win for losing.


packrat said...

Those young 'uns certainly didn't have the Catbird seat, eh, Scott?

Scott said...

They sure didn't--and it's all my fault!