It’s mid-October, I kick open the windows one cool, lazy Sunday morning while coffee percolates. Field crickets are still going, off along the back bluejays are harassing something or each other. I was surprised at the report last week, their population has declined some tremendous percentage…30 percent, 60 percent, something outrageous.
A redbelly woodpecker swooped against the honeylocust in the corner as I read in the backyard yesterday evening, imploring me to set out the feeder. It swipes peanuts and hides them under sloughing bark of a snag I haven’t cut because it’s a bug factory for them and redhead and downy woodpeckers, all of which are on the decline. Non-native starlings sit at the tops of dead branches mimicking the songs of bobwhite quail, whose population has declined by eighty percent.
The loss of formerly common, abundant species is the unwinding of an ecosystem. We make a decision for weed-free, bug-free landscapes, and as folks become less connected to the outdoors, even to their own backyards, we don’t notice the consequences. We plant things with pretty flowers and pretty foliage and no nutritive or protective value, prioritizing form over function.
Shaming isn’t constructive. Navel gazing, nostalgia, wistfulness isn’t constructive. These same species were threatened by market hunting, habitat loss, chemical contamination, throughout the 20th century. When we realized the consequences of our actions, we collectively made different decisions.
I chose a messy yard, letting the wild petunia and black-eyed susans, little bluestem and sedges and vestiges of native prairie come back. Pulling out the privet and burning bush and replacing them with native sumac, serviceberry, elderberry, hazelnut. Planting native sunflowers, asters, milkweed, mountain mint, gayfeather, clover- that look mangy this time of year but are loaded with bugs, butterflies, goldfinches, house finches, sparrows.
That’s more meaningful to me.