Winged compost eaters

Story and photo by Jim Brown
Several weeks ago I was straining my back trying to move the green cart down the long, winding driveway to the lane for pickup. It was a tough work getting a heavy, full cart through ice and snow. After getting stuck in a rut in the ice for about the sixth time, I muttered, “There’s got to be a better way!”

Later in the day I found inspiration just by looking out the window at the bird feeder.

 
Till then, I had been feeding the wild birds outside my mom’s home in Stanley Bridge with the usual supply of bird seed purchased at the grocery store, varied every once in a while with moldy bread and uneaten crusts.

So I experimented – first with fish from the back of the freezer that didn’t pass the smell test – gone within minutes. Then slabs of bacon that also failed muster. They, too disappeared before long.

I remember tossing some green-flecked bologna onto the birdfeeder and about five minutes later it was also gone, snatched by a crow I briefly glimpsed as a jet black blur in flight.

Then the floodgates opened. And, God Bless, they snatched it all. The food items included everything from leftover pizza slices turned rock hard after being left on the kitchen counter overnight, to cookies, half eaten pears, potato skins, chips and nachos. Nearly all of it magically disappeared.

Go to the restaurant and find the fries in gravy a little heavy? Or you can’t finish all the liver? Off to the bird feeder. Not a big veggie eater? Food for the winged furies. Pasta too crunchy, even for leftovers? Lucky day for the birds.

Blue jays, chickadees, crows, starlings, grosbeaks – they all were pressed into duty as flying garburators. All told there are close to 400 bird species on the Island, so there’s plenty of potential help in the “wings”.

It seemed I’d turn my head and a great big mound of organic stuff would vanish.

Of course there are limits on what you can throw on a bird feeder. You don’t want to leave pungent smelling meat and other ripe composting matter around for too long. That would attract skunks, raccoons, mice, rats and other critters you’d rather not have anywhere near your house.

You certainly wouldn’t want mice to burrow through your car’s trunk and engine or get into your home’s electrical system.

But the bottom line is my green cart has about one quarter less compost in it and it’s much easier to push to the lane. And I have the birds to thank for it.

The whole exercise reminded me of a science fiction short story I had read as a child, about a mad scientist who created a device that would make things vanish. Only thing is once it was mass produced everything started disappearing, even big chunks of the planet earth which shrunk to the approximate size of the moon.

I’m sure there’s a catch somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet. Maybe I’ll notice mountains of bird poop on the lawn once the snow retreats. I just hope I don’t strain my back shoveling it.

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