Nature & You: Just how many birds are flocking to your backyard feeder?
I have seen all of the movies. The Klingon people seem to be a technologically advanced civilization. Their cloaking device makes their bird of prey battle cruiser all but undetectable when they are engaged in "when-push-comes-to-shove" altercations.
Oh, but if I had access to such a honey. You can keep your photon torpedoes. As for me, I would be but more than content with the cloaking device.
My first assignment would be to stand alongside my home's backyard birdfeeder. I'd be invisible, of course. It might be best to wear some eye goggles. Birds flying to and fro would most undoubtedly be ricocheting off of me. If they couldn't see me, I couldn't expect them to dodge left or right in order to avoid a collision with me.
I would then ever so gently apply a small dab of fluorescent orange paint to the crown of each chickadee's head. I'd also add a chicken scratch to the page of a notepad. Eventually, I'd determine that no unmarked chickadees remained in my home's backyard.
I'd bet a dollar to a doughnut that I'd be able to ascertain that, indeed, no less than 2,640 chickadees live in my backyard. Not that I've seen that many at the feeder at one time, but there's a veritable conveyor belt of chickadees flying back and forth from the feeder.
Without the paint spot, all of the chickadees look the same. My cloaking experiment would finally enable me to collect the data that I seek.
As it is now, I have but to scratch my head in puzzlement. Just how many half-a-hundred-pounds sack of sunflower seeds can be consumed by such tiny feathered sprites? The answer, I am convinced, is that I am playing host to no less than 2,640 individual chickadees.
Give or take one or two, of course.
Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center. His email is email@example.com.