A favorite Christmas gift this season was something I’d never buy for myself: a bird feeder.
It’s a nice one, too - one of those mechanical gizmos with a motorized base that can hurl unwanted squirrels high into the air.
I hung it in a hickory tree outside our kitchen window, where it has provided hours of entertainment and countless meals for countless birds that have already consumed 20 pounds of black oil sunflower seed.
On colder days, the feeder is downright crowded, with birds sitting everywhere awaiting a turn at the trough. I’ve seen finches, towhees, warblers wrens and woodpeckers — even some sparrows.
All that food really concentrates these hungry little birds, which in turn, I have learned, creates opportunities for other hungry creatures.
The other evening, right at dusk, I noticed a frantic cardinal fluttering almost vertically just past our porch. Then a silent shadow swept past and it vanished. One of the barred owls that lives in the tall trees behind our pond dam had staked out our yard for an easy meal.
Since then, I’ve noticed two of these owls perched in nearby limbs, waiting for a snack.
There is also a red-tailed hawk that has temporarily moved into our yard as well. Whenever he snags a meal, he sits on the ground and patiently devours it as the oblivious birds nearby continue to gorge themselves with seed.
It is the food chain, and perhaps an ethical dilmemma for those who enjoy feeding birds, only to see some of them eaten by creatures a rung or two up the ladder.
It is nature’s way, I guess, and part of the orderly chain of life that guides the world we live in.
WINTER OYSTERS: Public oyster areas in three Charleston County, S.C., creeks were reopened Friday after the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control affirmed that the effects of a December sewage spill had passed.
“The beds in portions of Secessionville Creek, First Sisters Creek and Folly Creek down to the Folly Road Bridge have been reopened because water quality sampling results indicate bacteria levels are suitable for clam and oyster harvesting,” said Mike Pearson, manager of DHEC’s Shellfish Sanitation program.
GUN SALES BRISK: The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated Friday that firearms sales in the U.S. continued to thrive and expand despite a lagging economy last year.
The trade association’s announcement, made during the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, cited indicators including background-check statistics, firearms production and importation reports.
One of the best indicators of firearms sales is the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System, which in December marked the 19th consecutive month in which background checks increased when compared to the same period in the previous year.
Adjusted December totals were 1,410,937 – the most ever for any single month, the group said.
SNAKE TRAVEL BAN: We’ve written a lot about the Burmese python population that has taken hold in Florida’s Everglades, and the experiments conducted at Savannah River Ecology Lab to gauge their ability to migrate northward to cooler locales.
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a rule that would ban the importation transfer between states of the Burmese python and three other species – the yellow anaconda, and the northern and southern African pythons.
The four non-native species were assessed by the U.S. Geological Survey as having a high risk of establishing populations and spreading to other geographic areas.