Starlings on Prozac

Funny Bird Stories

There are often funny stories about birds in the papers, as well as reports of recent local sightings. These usually appear in weekend editions where harder news is replaced by news that is a bit softer and more entertaining. That’s my take, anyway. Here are some recent examples.

The first is about an owl that got caught in a hockey net. The second is an account of a seagull that snatched a man’s wallet from his back pocket. (Of course, there’s no such thing as a seagull, just as there’s no such thing as a ‘Canadian’ goose). The third story, one I stumbled across online, is about European Starlings on Prozac. Thus the blog title–and our photo.

© Marshall Faintich
Isles of Lewis/Harris, Scotland
May 2017

A Cautionary Tale

All great stories. But that last story, though funny to a point, is a cautionary tale. Human-caused environmental contamination can do serious harm to birds–and other forms of wildlife. Starling populations may be thriving. But other species that could be affected in the same way are not. Starlings may not be vulnerable. But many other bird species are. And an inability to reproduce would be those species’ death knell. I think of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Here’s an interesting article about the return of a group to the Great Dismal Swamp after a 40-year absence. It’s a great recovery story. Once again–we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Blue Crabbing

One population that is definitely not endangered is the local crabbing population. That population is alive and well, as is its quarry: the blue crab, the ‘Bay’s signature crustacean.’ We’ve already noted in a previous blog that the blue crab is an indicator species and a keystone species. A crustacean to keep an eye on. So it’s a good thing that blue crabs are abundant in the watershed. And their abundance is a good thing for the crowd devoting their off-hours to catching them, including this gentleman, Richard, who was fishing, not with the usual tackle, but with fishing lines and drumsticks! I don’t think he was too happy having his picture taken. Fortunately, I was able to meet him later and explain to him what I was up to. We had a good talk and we laughed. He was an affable guy, and I wished him well.

crabbing from a skiff
crabbing from a skiff

And here’s a mother and son team fishing from the nearby pier at Elizabeth River Park. They’d just caught a big one.

Trevon and his mom
Trevon and his mom

Trevon, the young man, seemed to have most of the crabbing techniques down pat. Here he is in action.

Trevon casting
Trevon casting

I like this shot. It captures him, of course, but it also captures the blue water, the blue sky, his blue Puma’s, and the blue chicken leg. I’ve learned that many crabbers dip their chicken parts in something called ‘Blue Crab Fuel.’ Apparently that’s what he and his mom used.

Here he is again, either reeling in a crab in or just checking his line.

Trevon checking his line
Trevon checking his line

I like this shot as well. I like it for the above reasons. But I also like it because it captures a kid doing something all kids do. They climb on stuff. In this case, though, climbing had a utilitarian purpose. Trevon wasn’t quite tall enough to do much of anything from the walkway.

Finally, here are a few more pictures from the area including one of a gentleman measuring his catch.

measuring the catch
measuring the catch

There are minimum size limits and everyone I’ve observed understands this. Here’s a photo of a blue crab being scooped up in a net.

blue crab in net
blue crab in net

 

And here’s the bait that was used. Blue Crab Fuel really works, so I’ve been told.

the bait
the bait

Scuffletown Creek, Chesapeake

After I left the pier, I headed across the train tracks, by the open dumpster and unmarked police cruiser (with a nod to the officer), and toward the middle of the old dump site, Scuffletown Creek. The fellow crabbing from his skiff was on the creek’s edge. When I arrived, a Double Crested Cormorant was on what remained of an old piling. And surprisingly, but not surprisingly, there were four–FOUR!–Great Egrets feeding in the creek. The creek has changed. Several of the egrets immediately took off, but two remained. I was fortunate to captured this.

Great Egret
Great Egret

But on the way out, I was unfortunate to capture this, a new addition to the landscape there, and reminiscent of that other trash pile.

Scuffletown Creek trash pile
Scuffletown Creek trash pile

My blood boiled, as it always does. Here’s a photo that depicts exactly how I felt.

irate Green Heron
irate Green Heron

I took this a few weeks ago at Inland Road. The young heron was fed up with being the target of an aggressive swallow.

Chutzpah

I wonder why the male of the (human) species does a lot of things. But I wonder why they do stuff like this. It takes a lot of chutzpah to sneak around, dump trash on someone else’s property, and expect the owner to clean it up. I’m being kind.

Perhaps I should create a bumper sticker or a pinback that reads: ‘Real Men Don’t Dump Illegally.’ Maybe that would help. But maybe it wouldn’t. In any event, whenever men see the words: ‘Real men don’t…,’ it gives them pause. They take notice. Men want to be real men, after all. So maybe there’s hope. We’ll see. I’m open to other suggestions.

Credit: Marshall Faintich, friend, fellow-birder, and man of many talents, for the use of his European Starling photo.

Click here to email Dave or leave your public comment below.

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