"Enabling" the Drunken Waxwings and Robins

by Sally Blanchard

As I explained in my story in this section about the young wild owl coming down to sit on my lap, there was a time when it seemed that wild birds seemed to be more interested in me than I was in them. It was during the time right after my family moved back to California. Our house in Redlands was across the hill from a heavily wooded area (now a housing development) and on the other side of the hill was a canyon full of orange groves. I watched all sorts of wildlife including bobcats, a fox family with maturing kits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, possums, cottontails, bats, and all sorts of birds. 

One evening I went out to the garage to get something out of the freezer and I was startled to find a roadrunner up in the eaves of the roof.  She decided that the garage was her territory and was not happy with me being there. She virtually chased me back into the house. For the next few weeks, she was almost always in the garage and we couldn't figure out how she got in and out. It seemed as if she turned invisible when we opened the garage door and snuck in or out. Then there was the raven who flew down on a daily basis for weeks to 'help' my father water the plants in the yard. We always had California quail in the yard and they became my mother's absolute favorite bird. Anna's hummingbird was probably her second favorite and we had several hummingbird feeders around the yard. She also loved the Cedar Waxwings.

We had pyracantha bushes along the back hill of our yard and the robins and cedar waxwings would eat the berries. Towards the end of the summer, the berries would ferment and the birds loved them that way. They loved them so much, they gorged themselves on the fermented berries until they got drunk. They stumbled around and literally 'littered' the yard with their drunken little bodies. My mother was quite an enabler in regards to my father who had a serious drinking problem and she also took on the responsibility of protecting the drunken birds from predators. Until the robins and waxwings recovered from their drunken stupor, my mother stood guard near the patio door. If she saw any cats, she would run outside shaking her broom and yelling at them to scat.  My father referred to her as a bird witcher. This will always be one of my fondest memories of my mother.




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