Food, Glorious Food!

Humans eat meat, vegetables, fruit and sweet desserts. They wash those down with milk, water, coffee or tea, soft drinks or alcoholic beverages. In the warm seasons, like summer, many folks enjoy gardening and consuming vegetables from their own property or a community garden.

I have recently bought many heirloom and organic seeds. I can hardly wait to hire a fellow from Sherman to plow my plot. It’s quite big. I just have to remember to prevent him from digging up the garlic that I planted last fall.

Do you think that animals and birds enjoy finding their food as much as I enjoy raising it? Some animals are meat eaters. Some are only vegetarians. Some prefer fruit. After this lengthy introduction, let’s see if we can learn anything new about nature’s eating habits.

We’ll commence with mammals. Deer browse mostly on vegetation. Trees can be stripped at the bottom as far as the deer can reach. Moles and voles also devoir lower tree bark. That happened to my hemlock trees, one of their favorites, especially in winter.

Rabbits are also vegetarians. Remember Beatrix Potter’s children’s story of Peter Rabbit, who devoured Farmer MacGregor’s lettuces? That’s what they would like to do in my garden. Instead, they eat grass and other low plants.

Some fish eat only plants. Others only dine on animals. Fisher people know a lot about what fish eat. My mom and dad used lures replicating frogs, insects, small fish and worms. Mom caught the largest fish in a particular Canadian lake. This gardener couldn’t depend on my fishing skills. I was told that fish live in water, not the trees.

Then, insects and worms are delicacies for amphibians.

Finally, the birds. They are now eating up the third bag of sunflower seeds at my feeders. Today, 29 redwing blackbirds were gorging on them. They were a wonderful harbinger of spring. I was not as thrilled with the many starlings who followed them. I have had three woodpecker species enjoying the peanuts I provide. Other years, I have had pileated woodpeckers, too. Not this year.

What can we do besides feeding them seeds and peanuts? Carol Hardenburg puts out sumac seed heads. I always thought that sumac was a last resort for the birds in the winter. At the last report, mostly starlings were taking advantage of her donations. She’s hoping that bluebirds and robins will dine on them, too.

In the spring, geese flock to farmers’ fields to eat leftover corn and other crops. That must have been harder this winter, too, because of the deep snow. Human food is bad for them. Please remember to feed the geese at Dunkirk Harbor birdseed instead of bread.

This has been a difficult winter for the ducks and other waterfowl. However, my friends have reported interesting species at Dunkirk Harbor. These have included white-winged scoters and gulls, including glaucous and greater black-backed. I wish that I could have seen the glaucous gull perching on Mike Rosing’s duck trap. How funny.

I would have been thrilled with the six long-tailed ducks. Remember that they used to be called old squaws? I need to research how they got that name.

The mergansers are often seen at the harbor. The hoodies (hooded mergansers) are my favorite, with their ritual mating dances. This year has brought quite a few red-breasted and common mergansers, also. Other ducks have included buffleheads, goldeneyes, canvasbacks, redheads. Then, there are usually many more coots than I’ve seen this year. I wonder if the weather has been the cause of that, too, or maybe the eagles have been devouring them as well. The hunters appreciate the geese.

Pileated woodpeckers and brown creepers are out.

Does wildlife actually enjoy food as much as we do?