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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter Visitors

For the past week, my yard has been full of avian activity.  I opted against the usual fall practice of raking up fallen leaves and cedar fronds, not because of laziness, but because of a naturalist's contempt for the practice.  Trees take up nutrients from the soil and when they drop their leaves, they return some of what they have borrowed.  It's an elegant system, and one in which I would rather not interfere.  Although my bi-pedal mammalian neighbors may not appreciate my stance on the matter, my bi-pedal avian neighbors certainly do.

The avian activity that I mentioned earlier has been directly related to my lack of yard maintenance.  On a nearly daily basis I have looked out my back door to find a dozen or more Varied Thrushes picking energetically through the leaf litter in search of a meal.  These birds spend their summers at higher altitude in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.  They feed and raise their young by picking through the litter on the forest floor for invertebrates and foraging a little higher for a variety of berries.  In the fall they move to lower elevations to avoid heavy snowfall.  It's much harder to pick through leaf litter when you have to dig through several feet of snow to reach it.

So imagine the disappointment a flock of thrushes must feel when they arrive in the lowlands to discover nothing but a bunch of yards that have been completely cleared of leaf litter.  They aren't really worm-pullers like their close cousin the robin, so a vast sea of grass has no real appeal to them.  They are forest birds and they need something that at least remotely resembles a forest floor.  I figure the least I can do is make them feel welcome by leaving the table set on the little patch of earth for which I am responsible.  In the end, it's a win-win situation for me and the birds.  I don't have to rake the yard, and I don't feel any guilt from the neighbors because I look out and see a dozen gorgeous thrushes thanking me for not doing what society has come to expect.  After all, I feel that the thrushes have a much better grasp on the natural order of things than do my neighbors with their immaculate lawns.   


  1. Hooray for you! I also decline to rake for the same reasons. Just think if everyone left the much more forage for the birds.

  2. I'm with you. I don't mow or rake. When people ask me why, I sometimes tell them that I love crickets and singing insects and there would be none if I mowed. My neighbors mow literally twice a week and have no wildlife visitors. I enjoy the company of all kinds of furry and feathered friends.