Green Neighbors: Everything’s Hitched

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday June 25, 2009 - 06:16:00 PM
And then juvenile crows go out and hang around in delinquent gangs in parking lots. Really.
Ron Sullivan
And then juvenile crows go out and hang around in delinquent gangs in parking lots. Really.

Another Solstice gone by, another year’s peak passed, another year older, another long half-year of diminishing light. Or, to be jollier about it: the sweet downswing of the seasons, the ripening of all that winter and spring promised.  

Also high time to prune that hazel off the driveway, and tie back the pelargoniums and pineapple sage. I like having contact with my green companions when I get into the car, but lately I’m getting aphids in my hair.  

There are more aphids than usual; the car’s getting a one-sided bath of sticky goo from them as it’s parked under the red-leafed plum, the native hazelnut, the always ambitious ‘Roger’s Red’ grapevine, and a few others who jostle into different patterns every year. I’m wondering if the crows have as much to do with that as the rather productive spring we enjoyed this year.  

(“Enjoyed” if you include such dubious pleasures as drowning in one’s own snot for weeks after a storm of pollen, and meeting all those nice people in the ER—pleasures that turn out to be rather expensive even with pricey medical insurance. I recently paid about $115 for a three-month supply of a newish drug. The “usual and customary retail” price on the label was $615. How do people live? Oh wait; I forgot.)  

Why the crows? A pair of them nested in one of the neighborhood’s four big redwoods, and raised a brood of three. Crows raid the nests of other birds for eggs and nestlings, and any birds raising big hungry young will get pretty motivated and ruthless. The young crows are still following the parents, begging (an annoying nasal “Waw”) and getting fed. They eat just about anything, and they’re smart enough to find hidden nests.  

The lesser goldfinches nested but seem to be trying again now, with no fledglings following them around begging. A robin pair, ditto, though he’s singing his heart out; I haven’t seen spotty young robins anywhere.  

The house finches are only now showing up, and seem half-hearted about territorial singing. Bushtits: there’s a pair but only one fledgling with them. I do think the hummingbirds did OK; the female might even have raised a second brood and I saw at least one fledgling in the bay laurel. No scrub jays; no mockingbirds; a few chickadees.  

Now the post-breeders are coming in: nuthatch, titmouse, black phoebe. Maybe they’ll help. Everybody knows, though, that nurserytime is about over, that it’s time to molt and relax if they’re not being chased for someone’s dinner. 

The crows are a hoot, I’ll admit. They chase ravens and hawks and each other, engage in dissonant choral cheering, play castanets with their beaks, kite around in stiff wind just for fun. I can take some extra aphid damage for a year; I begrudge it more than the extra carwash though.  

I can’t close the door to the garden in any meaningful sense, and the wild neighbors are as much a part of the climate that affects it as the fog.