Thursday, October 2, 2008

Of Mice and Birds

This morning, walking through the laundry-room where my dog sleeps (and where I keep several 50# sacks of birdseed), I noticed a dead mouse in his water bowl! Ewwwwwww! I shouldn’t be surprised, this is a rural area and I do have mice from time to time (okay, all the time, but I usually don’t see them.)

Not one for wasting anything, I took the bowl out to the Back Forty (that would be the back 40-feet of my yard, it’s only 150’ long.) While I don’t have to do this often, and certainly not for at least six months…I drop dead mice back there (from snap-traps) for the critters that frequent the area. At the very least, it might keep a feral cat off the bird-feeders for a day. However, on this day something very odd happened.

I dumped the bowl, water and all, onto the ground where the grass is short and the dead mouse would easily be seen. I looked around and noticed that still, there were few birds around…some starlings and doves were it. I turned and walked back to my house, when I heard a bird-call and looked back to see a Black-billed Magpie on a utility line pretty much right over where I’d dumped the mouse. Before I knew it, the bird hopped down, strutted over to something on the ground and picked it up and flew off. I couldn’t believe it…I had to go look. Yup, the mouse was gone. Dang, the thing was on the grass less than two minutes!

(My photo taken earlier this year: Black-billed Magpie)

Okay, I don’t wanna sound paranoid or anything, but…are they watching me? Good lord, I’ve been planning to put out all the feeders this weekend. I promise! Oddly, unlike a neighbor who, in the dead of winter puts out kibble (I think) for the big Corvids, I don’t usually feed Magpies myself. While last February I was tossing out bucketfuls of chicken-scratch, I didn’t see many Magpies; mostly Grackles, Blackbirds and 'exotic' Doves. I quit this practice months ago, when I realized I was also feeding Cowbirds and only encouraging the Eurasian interlopers. Still, I do see them around regularly and this spring I had two eating from the suet-cages (such a site...they're big birds for a little perch); I think they nested nearby.

I can’t imagine who's been teaching this Magpie that people tossing water might also leave a tasty treat. Very odd. And…I think they’re watching me! [shudder]


Camera Trap Codger said...

Hell yes they're watching you. And don't freak out if you see one looking in the window.

Beverly said...


April said...

Pretty picture of the Magpie - I like their long tails. I enjoyed your post about the mice - probably the magpie was just in the right spot at the right time. But it would have been kind of creepy.

Thank you so much for the link to the Cornell site and the woodpecker comparison. When I read the information about their bills and looked at my photos again, I knew the woodpecker I saw had to be a Hairy.

Bosque Bill said...

The Birds is coming; The Birds is coming.

Remember don't make any loud noises!

Beverly said...

Awwwwwwwww, April...thank you so much!

You know...I was being tongue-in-cheek when I suggested 'they are watching me!'. Having said that I still think it's wild that the magpie, who could not have seen what I dumped on the ground, knew enough to come check out what it might be. It had to learn that somewhere. I thought it was pretty cool, actually.

Yeah, there's a bunch of great info on the Cornell site. I'm one of those overly enthuastic people who likes to share what I find. I just hope it doesn't come off like a know it all; I certainly don't. That page is what helped me tell them appart, too. I had pairs of both in my yard this year. Like you, I try to compare size to an object, but that failing I go straight to the bill; it never fails.

I sure did enjoy visiting your site; I'll be back!

Beverly said...

[spews coffee]

Good lord,'s awful early for such talk!

Wasn't that kinda cool though? I'm surprised nobody has mentioned any weirdness about my 'recycling' dead mice. Many people try to be green, but... :D

Mary said...

What a funny story! I love the reference to the "back forty"...we always called the back part of our property that when we were growing up! Brought back memories :-) That is a beautiful bird and I'm glad it got a good meal out of your kindness. I usually open the door and just toss them as far as I's a wonder the cats don't pick them up and bring them right back in.

Beverly said...

Oh goodieeeeeeeeeee... I'm not the only one! Sometimes I think I'm some sorta nut for recycling mice! LOL

Beverly said...

Ya know Mary, about that 'Back 40'...we always used the term too, even though I grew up in a subdivision of cracker-box houses.

BosqueBill uses the term too, and had to put a descriptor on his website cuz so many people kept asking "What IS a 'Back 40'"

I love old sayings...and finding out how they came about.

NW Nature Nut said...

I knew about the "back 40". I think my dad always said that, he grew up in Iowa.

I'm glad to see the mouse supplied someone with breakfast. Those corvids are so smart! (And you can add Magpie to your list if you haven't already.)

Beverly said...

Oh yeahhhhhhhh, I added it.

AND I put up about ten feeders! heh heh heh

This morning all I saw was those blasted Starlings; at least they have the decency not to come down while I'm watching.

I suppose the squirrel will tell all his friends too...I just hope they don't distroy the feeders! I need to get some 'collars'; can anybody tell me why a simple piece of metal is so darn much money?