BIRD WATCH: Bumper crop of luscious plums prompts orgy-like antics

BEFORE REFERRING TO something taking place in my garden, I thought it prudent to see Webster’s definition of an “orgy.”

One definition for this word described perfectly what has been going on for well over a week.

“Unrestrained indulgence in any activity” describes the actions of numerous robins and starlings plus a few towhees, song sparrows and black-headed grosbeaks. The fruit on the Japanese plum is ripe.

The plums aren’t only ripe, but I suspect they are borderline fermented. A few arguments have broken out, but the behavior of these birds could quickly turn ugly.

The young birds hatched this summer have joined their parents. Their manners tend to be the worst.

Robins are fighting with each other and with the starlings, and they’ve even taken to chasing the song sparrows around.

Action in the vicinity of this tree is almost nonstop. Only in the heat of the day do things quiet down a bit.

The front porch and the garden under the plum tree are a mess. Sticky plum juice on the porch looks like someone poured Kool-Aid all over it.

The hose doesn’t wash it off very easily. It will take a bucket of suds applied with a scrub brush.

Half-eaten plums litter the sidewalk, the garden path and the porch steps. Even the birdbath usually has a plum or two floating in it, and a bumper crop of ripened fruit still hangs from the tree’s branches.

I’m tempted to shake some of it down, but the mess would only get worse. You see, the birds aren’t the only ones enjoying an orgy of plum eating.

What the birds create during the day, the raccoons emulate after sundown. A large mother raccoon and three half-grown youngsters consider the plum tree their territory.

Not content to eat what falls on the ground, they make sure plums fall on the ground. These creatures can crawl through flimsy branches right out to the tips and stuff themselves with the sweet fruit.

When the morning bird orgy begins, mess or not, it is entertaining. It seems that every young robin hatched in this neighborhood can’t resist plums.

They are a pretty scruffy-looking bunch. Not only do many of them still wear their juvenile spots, but some are losing feathers before their adult plumage grows enough to be seen.

The starlings, the young ones, come in a range of juvenile colors. Those wearing a light-brown outfit act younger than the others. They aren’t very adept at maneuvering through the bushes and branches.

More than one of these young birds has attempted to land on branches that won’t hold their weight. Their surprise is comical when it drops from under them.

A wild scrambling usually takes place as the surrounding branches turn out to be just as flimsy. The frustrated youngster often gives up and flies away, perhaps to a more familiar landing spot.

This raid on fruit I once made into jelly has become an annual event. It wasn’t always like this, and that’s a bit puzzling.

I gave up on getting any fruit, even for eating, many years ago. Perhaps if there were more Japanese plums scattered around the neighborhood, there wouldn’t be this concentration of revelers in my yard.

The trees are easy to grow. In fact, several seedlings will sprout from this year’s crop.

One such seedling is now producing fruit way in the backyard. It will be interesting to see if the rowdy carousing moves out of sight.

I’m not holding my breath. These birds are enjoying their orgy-like antics too much.

________

Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected].

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