The Beginning Of The End

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:02 am

This was going to be a fairly decent year for us, financially. We’d paid off the car, fought the credit card into a holding action and were well in place to start really knocking down the home-equity line of credit. In the coming years we hoped to pay for a new roof, maybe an extension of the concrete pad in the back yard, possibly even spring for a new TV.

Alas, all that is probably so much dust in the wind now. In all likelihood, we will be funneling that money into a new and wholly unanticipated expense: suet.

Allow me to elaborate. Yesterday, Margaret and I were going about our time-honored Saturday rituals; pouring coffee, fixing breakfast, and listening to Car Talk. I happened to be looking out the window into the back yard at our bird feeders, a complex of seed feeders, fruit hangers and a suet basket for the Chickadees, Bushtits and Flickers. The only birds we try not to feed are the Starlings.

It’s not that we don’t appreciate Starlings. We both happen to love their squeebly video-game vocalizations and their gregarious natures. It’s just that they are voracious consumers of suet. Worse, they are horribly messy and wasteful consumers of suet. Watching a Starling go after a suet block is like watching Cookie Monster go after a plate of Chips Ahoy. And it’s never just one. If you have one Starling on your suet feeder, in half an hour you will have twenty, grinding and flailing their way through your rendered-cow wafers like a pack of chainsaw artists on crystal meth attacking a cedar log.

Our suet basket is designed to be “Starling proof”. It is commonly understood that Starlings cannot—or will not, I’m not completely sure which—hang upside down to feed. This has been supported by our observations. So in order to prevent Starlings from eating us out of house and home, the suet basket we use can only be accessed from the underside. While a Starling might occasionally grab a furtive nibble by madly flapping its wings and hovering under the feeder for a few seconds, they seem to quickly learn that the number of calories expended in such endeavors equal or exceed the number brought in by same, and they quickly give up.

Until yesterday, that is, when I happened to witness the beginning of the end. I looked out at our feeders and watched in horror as a young male Starling crept out to the edge of the roof of our suet basket and climbed down onto the grate that held the block of suet suspended. There, the little bastard hung upside-down from the grate and happily om-nom-nommed away for a good ten minutes before flying off.

At the time, I was too paralyzed with horror to run outside and impale him on my Grampa’s Weeder before he could get away.

Because you just know where this is heading. This guy is going to be the fattest, sleekest, sassiest Starling in our neighborhood. As such is going to attract a serious number of potential mates. Each generation of progeny is likely to be blessed with both the genetic propensity and the parental instruction to be able to hang upside-down to feed. Within a few generations, inbreeding and self-reinforcement will mean the advent of a whole new subspecies: Sturnus pendeo-conversus. The Hanging Upside-Down Starling. At this point, we might as well just give up and take out another mortgage for the sole purpose of keeping the damn suet basket filled. Might as well enjoy our last year of financial security before the invasion begins.

Ah well; middle class was fun while it lasted.

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