Snow and Football, Before and After

February 5. It’s a balmy 51° in Fort Worth. Ah, sunny Saturday, after four days of icebound hibernation. A day to finally venture out, with the main order of business—groceries. Have you ever tried to push a grocery cart over alternating mounds of ice and deep, dirty puddles that fill the tire ruts between? Great fun … and cold, wet feet.

After putting the groceries away when I returned home, it was time for, and nice enough for, a once-over around the yard. There’s always wind-swept trash to pick up. With most of the ice and snow melted away in the sun, now would be revealed both pre- and post-ice deposits. And this time I noticed a type of debris I’d not found before.

Small birds had long ago ensconced themselves between a slatted wood vent cover and its interior screen above the garage’s overhead door. I’m sure they’ve contributed to wear and tear on the wood, not to mention the paint job, but they don’t bother me. Not at all the way squirrels bother me. Don’t get me started on squirrels. That’s another blog, maybe even another book.

When I bent down to inspect the debris littered on the ice that lingered in front of the garage, I could tell that it was all the makings of a bird’s nest. Balls of lint that float into my yard from the neighbor’s dryer vent. Cellophane bits of various types. Feathers. String. Tufts of carpet that continue to escape the indoors since I installed ceramic tile last summer. And I finally understand the bits of black plastic bag that I find all over my yard on a regular basis. Where do they come from? They are either on their way into the nest or out of it, I suppose. I hope it’s from a garbage bag and not the vapor barrier lining of my house!

And look – crushed cigarette filters! Butts (interesting that there’s no nice way to say that) are one of the most prevalent kinds of trash I have to pluck out of my yard, always with disdain for the humans who not only pollute our sky but also our land. But even birds know how to recycle such objectionable discards. And it thrilled me to see how nature has another way to make it right.


I discovered more debris around the driveway today. Lots more, obviously from the bird’s nest. Was Saturday’s evidence not the result of a single incident that occurred in past tense? Has the nest unraveling continued still? Or is it an activity that only just resumed after the break for snow days? If the latter, I can understand why the responsible party chose to chill a while, as most of us humans were incapacitated. But then we’re not used to living outdoors in the first place.

Or was all this debris there before, hidden beneath or in the ice? Are any birds still there? Have they flown “south” for the winter?! (Sorry if they thought they were south!) Or did the neighbor’s pesky cat enjoy them for dinner?

Along with all the discarded building materials, there’s also a good bit of biological bird debris to signal life in residence. Hm, that could have been under the ice as well. Perhaps it was just too cold for the small species and they destroyed their own home in a flurry for warmth. (It’s come down to burnin’ the furniture!)

And how is it that being exposed to four solid days of temps below freezing would kill a human, but weeds survive?  

Sorry. I see a good bit of straw is still up there in the vent. Perhaps the wind is the culprit that wreaks havoc on the nest?

Ah, I have it! The birds had a rip-roaring super bowl party up there. Some ole bird got drunk no doubt and started tearin’ the place apart! It wasn’t a responsible party at all. And you wonder why I don’t like football.

    • John Sullivan
    • March 16th, 2011

    Finding myself “too old” to be hirable, I too have become much more aware of the flora and fauna indigenous to the North American enclosed tract of land laughingly called a yard. Having purposely bought a house with a multitude of mature trees, I find that about the only thing growing is the weeds, squirrels, and birds we spend so much money feeding (the squirrels and birds that is). We long ago gave up spending money on trying to get any variety of grass to do anything other than die and fertilize the weeds. We had some darn healthy weeds back then and I still get a bit of a guilt trip seeing how the weeds have to struggle now. Somehow I feel I will get over it.

    Great Blog! Keep up the good work (writing that is) and hope to read more.


    • Debra
    • February 12th, 2011

    To see such every day. Beauty and disgust go together in ways we don’t always understand. Keep on girl

      • Paula Robertson
      • February 15th, 2011

      Thanks for that insight, Debra.

    • Beverly
    • February 9th, 2011

    Paula, thank you for putting the thoughts of so many of us (your friends, fans, and even strangers) into such wonderful words. Beverly

    • Tracie Stewart
    • February 9th, 2011

    I love that the birds are “recycling” the cigarette butts!!!!
    Years ago, when I was in grad school -the first time- a colleague of mine wrote a paper on the carnivorous activities of squirrels. He submitted it to a nature journal and, to his surprise, it was actually published. He had observed and photographed a squirrel eating a baby bird that it had taken from a nest. Everyone assumed squirrels were vegetarian, so his article was quite stirring in the zoological community at the time. He received numerous phone calls and requests for “data.” It was at that point in time when he realized the veil of mental superiority over all other earthly mammals that humans enjoy is pretty thin.
    So next time you see one of those cute little hamsters running on the wheel in a pet shop, just remember they don’t pay gym memberships and they eat much healthier than we do. LOL!

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