January 5th – Eking Out A Living

The many small bird tracks around this spindly weed stem and the lack of seeds indicate that it got a LOT of attention. Note the wing impression in the snow to the bottom left. -DOL

I was at the Fern Hill Oakville campus yesterday, checking on the feeders and the 2 tightly furled nets that are still standing. Lots of activity around the feeders. The campus is situated next to a large cemetery and close to a conservation area. The cemetery doesn’t offer much in terms of habitat. But the narrow (~10 m) fence row that separates the lawns from the campus and the lawns from the conservation area lands is pretty lively at times and is used during migration by a wide variety of species. The edge habitat also provides a winter home for typical southern Ontario wintering birds. I was checking out the edge when I heard the “chimp” calls of a Song Sparrow and, when I tracked it down, two Song Sparrows. These birds were using the edge to shelter in and were braving the exposed undeveloped areas to pick over weed stems, gleaning all the seeds they could get at.

These weeds were few and far between but the bird(s) seemed to have gleaned all that they could. -DOL

The northern part of the cemetery is new and just under development so there are still wild spots and weeds to feed on. What happens when it is just a rug of sod and headstones (my dad used to call them “marble orchards”)? And this is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Most of the soybean and corn fields have finally been harvested (being such a wet Fall it was difficult for farmers to access their fields with big machinery). Take a look at them for yourself and see how many exposed weeds/seed heads you can see. In Europe there has been a pronounced decline in field-feeding birds due to “industrial” or intensive farming methods. I’m sure it’s the same here….and it will only get worse.

Note the difference in thicknesses between the two Webster dictionaries. It would seem we’ve lost a lot of vocabulary in the last 100 years. -DOL

For this post I went to look up the official definition of the word “eke”. When I got to my bookshelf I was struck by the difference in thickness between the much bigger older version of Webster and the more recent “college edition”. We’ve lost a LOT of vocabulary in the past 100+ years. Anyway….the word eke is certainly the most appropriate to apply to my Song Sparrows:
– to manage to make (a living) with difficulty;
– to use (a supply) frugally.

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