Posted in A bit of history, Air, Critters, Earth, Eastern Shore, Exploring, Fire, Gifts, Gratitude, Life, Maryland, Mindfulness, Nature, Perception, Photography, Quotes, Spirit, Spring, Walking & Wandering

The House Sparrow

Building a nest.

If we learn to read the birds-and their behaviors and vocalizations-through them, we can read the world at large… if we replace collision with connection, learn to read these details, feel at home, relax, and are respectful–ultimately the birds will yield to us the first rite of passage: a close encounter with an animal otherwise wary of our presence.

~ Jon Young, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

In the construction business.

A year or two after we moved to the Eastern Shore, M bought some martin houses.  He wanted to attract purple martins to our yard.  This story goes back about twenty years or more, to when we lived in Ohio Appalachia along the Ohio River where Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky meet.  Our neighbors were a lovely older couple, Evelyn and Melvin, who became our friends and surrogate grandparents to our youngest son.  They were retired, although Evelyn went back to work because, she said, having Melvin home all day long drove her bonkers because he was “I swan, always up in everything.”

The rabbit population is up and thriving this year.

Eons ago, Homo sapiens were just as alert and aware as all other creatures, and for the same reason. They needed to be. Now we don’t need to be – or do we, but just don’t understand this anymore? Our sensory equipment and brains are still designed for this awareness. These instincts are still in each of us, just buried, maybe deeply buried. Connecting with bird language begins the process of unearthing them.

~ Jon Young, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

The flower garden.  There is a little birdhouse in the cherry tree near the new arbor.  The redbud in the background (center-right) was a skinny little twig with leaves when we planted it.  It’s growing up nicely.

Melvin had martin houses in his backyard.  They were more like martin apartments.  Every year purple martins would come flocking in and take up residence in Melvin’s bird apartments.  M loved to sit outside in the evenings watching the martins swoop and dive as they caught their evening meal.  He wanted some martin houses of his own, but we were too close to Melvin’s martin apartments and there is some rule or another that says thou shalt not steal thy neighbor’s martins (or maybe it has something to do with proximity of houses).

A dark day last week, when storms moved through.

M has done his best to attract young purple martins to his gourd housing here on the ranch.  He would get up before dawn to play Dawn Song, a CD of purple martin’s chattering at sunrise.  He would harass and chase away other birds who have tried to nest in the gourds.  Bluebirds frequently check out the housing, but don’t do much more than look around.  I think that’s because they have already nested somewhere before M puts up the martin houses.  Starlings are unable to get in because the houses are made with starling-resistant openings (somehow or another, the starlings are unable to enter the houses).  Two years ago, a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers tried to nest in one of the houses.  I was all for leaving them there.  They do, after all, catch and eat a lot of insects and that is one of the reasons M would like a colony of purple martins to come live with us.  However.  There are very strict rules when it comes to attracting martins and one of those rules is to never, ever, let another type of bird nest in the gourds.  Martins, it seems, are picky when it comes to living in a place where other bird species have lived.  It makes me wonder how they ever got on before humans started putting up housing for them.

Wind in the trees on a stormy day.

That brings us to the little House Sparrows.  I’ve written about them before.  In fact, the first year we had the martin houses, we had a particularly persistent sparrow trying to nest in one of them.  We named him Jack Sparrow.  M eventually succeeded in chasing Jack away, but I think he had to tear out the nesting material several times before Jack got the hint.

Sunlight and rain.

If you do a quick search in regards to house sparrows and purple martins, you will find all kinds of tips and hints on how to capture and move house sparrows.  Or, worse yet, advising you to kill them.  There is even a website devoted to how to humanely kill house sparrows.  There are several reasons people want to do this one of which is that house sparrows are said to drive away Eastern bluebirds, purple martins, and other birds by aggressively taking up the nesting sites that the bluebirds, et al., like to use.

But the main reason used to justify the killing of house sparrows is that they are not native to this country.  They are invasive immigrants, brought in and widely released in the U.S. during the “sparrow fad” of the 1850’s.  They may also be a good metaphor for immigrants and their treatment in recent times, but that’s neither here nor there other than the thought crossed my mind this morning as I watched a couple of sparrows building a nest in a place that will mean eventual (and very soon) eviction.  Some of the people who have martin houses have an almost fierce obsession with keeping the immigrant house sparrows away, sometimes to the point of wanting to eradicate every house sparrow in the U.S. (if not in the world).  They would close the air borders if they could.  Perhaps levy some hefty tariffs while they’re at it.  Anything to keep them from moving into the neighborhood.

More sunlight and rain.

House sparrow populations, worldwide, are said to be in decline.  There are lots of theories about why.  You can find some of those reasons in the article Where Have All the House Sparrows Gone?  Laura, over at Poetry Pix wrote a beautiful poem about house sparrows: the theory of sparrows.  It was Laura’s poem that got me pondering the life and times of sparrows.  Perhaps they all moved to the countryside where life is slower and better.

Raindrops always look so pretty on the leaves of the hostas.

In a culture in which “connection” usually refers to the strength of the cell phone signal, quieting the mind – even just sitting alone in the backyard, much less in the forest – can be a difficult rite of passage.

…when we “lose our mind” and “come to our senses” in the fullest possible way, the chattering, texting, e-mailing, twittering mind will eventually quiet down and almost silence itself. This is a sacred and connected silence…It’s like a deep, still pond reflecting the stars of the night sky. I believe this is the baseline for human consciousness, and I’m convinced that the birds are the best mentors in the natural world for bringing us to it.

~ Jon Young, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

As you might have guessed, I’m not happy about the upcoming eviction of our pair of sparrows.  I like to think I’m very live-and-let-live when it comes to nature but in all honesty, I’m not (as I established in my last long post when I mentioned that I like my nature tame).  I relocate some of the insects that find their way into the house.  I have no qualms about killing houseflies or ants or the dreaded and ubiquitous-to-the-South cockroaches (we don’t see them often, but occasionally one finds its way indoors).  And yet, and yet… I find myself thinking more and more about the idea that we are not outside of or separate from nature.  We have forgotten how much a part of nature and this planet we truly are, and probably have no idea how many connections we are severing with some of our actions. The more time I spend outdoors, with or without the camera, and the more time I spend meditating, the more I feel that connection and question the things we do to drive away the natural world.

M, of course, will evict the pair, probably over and over again until they give up.  Perhaps the martins will stop by and stay this year.  I think we might have been a little late in putting up the houses, but I could be wrong.  Time will tell.

Blueberries in the rain garden. We have a nice crop this year.

On a more positive note, a couple of weeks ago we had the front of the pond sloped so that it would no longer be a 3-foot drop off into the water.  We did it for a number of reasons, one of them being safety so that when our grandsons come for a visit they can walk down to the edge of the water without too much worry about them falling in.  (We learned about sloping and drop-offs at a pond clinic many years ago.)  There’s a little beach-like area at the front of the pond now and it appears the wildlife around here love it.  They can easily walk down to get a drink, take a bath, or fish.  After we first had it done, I wondered out loud what the birds and other wildlife would think of it.  They’ve made it clear that they think it was a good idea.  Wild turkeys, great blue herons, white-tailed deer, and all kinds of other critters have been spotted walking or sitting on the little beach.  I would imagine the grass seed we put down was appealing to some, too.

This was taken a week ago. A lot of the berries have already ripened (and already been eaten by us because by some miracle, we were able to get them before the birds and other critters did).

I reckon that’s it from me and from the Wabi-Sabi Ranch on this first Saturday in June.  I’ve been avoiding making any announcements about taking a blogging break but it’s pretty obvious that I can’t seem to get back into the swing of it just yet.  I’m sure this, too, shall pass.  Before you know it, I’ll be posting every day.  My urge to blog is similar to the tides or the moon phases, waxing and waning, going in and out.  I thought this was a recent development until I went back to my old blog to look for something and saw that I sometimes went months without blogging more than a post or two, if at all.  Although everything changes, there are patterns that seem to remain.

Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope all is well with you.  Join me at the Point for sunset this evening.  It is very summery here (hot and humid) and the insects are persistent so you’ll want to be prepared for that.  Hopefully there’s enough of a breeze out there by the water to keep the bugs from bothering us.  Sunset is scheduled for 8:20 PM.  We can go for a swim during or afterwards. (Yes, the weather is warm enough for that.  According to our local weather guy, the bay is 7°F above normal for this time of year.)

Be good, be kind, be loving.  Just Be.  🙂

Green reflections.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,076)  The sights and sounds outside my door.  1,077)  The little house sparrows.  1,078)  The wild turkey who doesn’t seem to mind us anymore.  1,079)  The blooming yucca in the flower garden.  1,080)  Seasons within seasons, and the wheel of the day and the year.



Robin is...

22 thoughts on “The House Sparrow

  1. I should like to see a photo of the sloping beach you have made for your pond. It sounds delightfully practical. I’m with you on letting wild things co-exist, I would let the sparrows build in the martin houses and probably just keep on investing in more martin houses with endless hope……. I realise I’m not terribly practical about many things. I like the sound of this book you are quoting from too, I shall have to look it up. I got a copy of ‘The Overstory’ after you quoted it in your last post – or possibly the one before – on Audible and couldn’t stop listening to it – it is possibly my favourite book ever! Have a good week Robin, post when you feel like it – it is always a joy to visit!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Pauline! 🙂 I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book. I thought it was wonderful. We are on a similar wavelength with the martin houses. I even suggested that we buy more and put them up where the sparrows could enjoy them. Or maybe the martins would move into the new houses. Or something. I’ve been looking at the new slope, trying to figure out how to photograph it that would make sense. Maybe next time I’ll actually take the camera with me. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Invasive species are one of those things I face every day, mostly plants, but I often think that there is little we can do about them… the horse is out of the barn, after all. I realize some human brought them here and it isn’t their fault that they are survivors. (Humans are the worse invasive species there is, I think!)
    But we are ruling the planet, at least so far, so we do what we have to do to survive and often that means eliminating the competition. It will play out as it will.
    I’d also like to see your new beach, maybe with a critter or two. 😉
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Robin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Eliza. 🙂 I feel the same way about invasives (plants or animals). I was wondering the other day about trees and the invasive insects that have been bringing them down. Lots of questions, maybe a whole blog post worth of questions and thoughts. (I agree, too, about humans being the worse invasive species there is!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Whenever you blog it is a joy for your readers so the intervals are unimportant. Loved this post- and as always beautifully illustrated, not least the stormy tree and blueberries in the rain (sounds like a country and western song). Glad the poem gave food for thought even if not to prevent eviction! “Build it and they will come” is all very well but it is not specified who or what 😉 Even so I can understand M’s desire for Martins – when I see the first of the swifts and swallows and house martins here, my heart always gives a leap.
    The slope to your pond is just what the tiny frogs and toads need too in order to get out for their land exodus – do you have any visiting amphibians?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love house sparrows and won’t shoo them away in favour of other birds – even rare ones. That said, I shooed away a magpie today that was making a meal of a half-coconut we have inside our bird table for the smaller birds to feed their babies from. Other half only put up a new one yesterday and thanks to magpie, it’s now half-done. So yeah, I interfere with nature, too…

    I set up a new blog (separate from my colouring one) a few months ago and then didn’t post to it for weeks… There do seem to be seasons for blogging. Summer isn’t a season I can always find it in me to write an interestesting post – I’d rather be outside in the sunshine or listening to music without the distraction of it, or – well, lots of other things! But then, suddenly… off I go again.

    Be well, Robin. Oh and – I think I like your wisdom too as well as that of our little beaky-robins!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dad always had Purple Martin apartment houses as did many in the rural area. I knew they were picky, but I didn’t know there were easy too encourage them to stay – I always thought they had to decide you were worthy. Hope some pick you – and that the sparrow might get/accept alternative digs. (How sad people hunt the sparrows. They are here now and do contribute. Reminds me of an extreme birding guy in Galveston that they caught poisoning and killing feral/neighborhood cats because they hunted birds…it’s an island with a port and wetlands – cats are needed and perform a function, too. Besides, it’s a life. No wonder the world is such a mess as it seems fewer and fewer respect the sanctity of life – all life.)
    Enjoy the season’s flow

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, PhilosopherMouse. 🙂 It’s all connected, I think. Everything, every life, serves some purpose. We might not know what it is, but it’s there. Even the mosquitoes and ticks have a reason for being (the birds certainly enjoy them).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not long ago big city people used to try to send their kids out to the country for the summer. It was good for health and for other reasons, too.
        If you don’t interact with nature at an early age – like even at preschool age – the understanding and appreciation of the natural world is slow to develop and difficult to gain – as well as own identity with perspective as a just one small being among many in nature.
        Not a totally forgotten concept. But needs to be recognized as an important one again. Outward Bound programs try to reconnect people/kids – but at that age it doesn’t always stick.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The ebb and flow of your blogging habit is to be celebrated, Robin. If I keep a strict schedule, it becomes a chore, so I try to post when I just can’t stop myself 🙂 It is always a joy to read your thoughts and reflections and see your beautiful photos, whenever they appear.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This post got lost in my in-box. I hope everything has worked out. Can’t the sparrows be evicted to a sparrow home? I’m imagining a bird realtor now–prime location, perfect size. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol, Merril! The blue jays might make good bird realtors. They’re so bossy and noisy and always around. Then again, they might chase off the other birds. We’ve been away, adventuring again, so the sparrows have had the freedom to do what they wish. I haven’t seen them so perhaps the local bird realtor found them a better place to live. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Robin, Nice post! My Dad used to do battle with sparrows invading the martin house often.

    I see you are reading a book on the new science of psychedelics. I’d be curious to hear what you make of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, OmbudsBen. It’s good to see you again. 🙂 The book was very interesting. I had no idea about the history of the research into psychedelics and how they were being used to help people with addictions, depression, and other problems/illnesses before the Timothy Leary and the hippies came along and ruined (cut off) that line of inquiry for a while. Reading about Pollan’s excursions into psychedelics was interesting, too. I think the brain and the way it works is as much a mystery to us as the vast reaches of the universe. Maybe more so.


Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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