If Only If Only – A question of interference in nature

ifOnly

The World of If Only.

How many times have you said that one or its sister “Only if”?

IfOnly-2

Holes
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the trees was as soft as the skies,”
As the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely
He cries to the moon, “If only, if only.”
by Fiction Plane.

This verse from the soundtrack to the movie Holes above leads into a comment that was left on a recent post, “I think we shouldn’t interfer (sic) too much with nature.” So if only…

it was possible.

Goose

So what does this blanket statement mean? It is not loaded with contradiction?

  • To participate in any way, shape or form in an ecosystem is to unsettle the natural process.
  • Are we integral and deemed the natural process in the grander metaphysical sense of things?
  • Even being just a spectator guarantees our observation changes the observed in some way.

Kinda like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle without all the physics and math. You just don’t know how you may affect another, taking into account all the unknown variables.

ChickadeeViburnum

So given that, altering or entering a habitat will undoubtedly affect life within that habitat. The question is always, “At what cost.”

You have to click this link for a chuckle. The guy got great pictures, but who was he kidding?  Wildlife Photographer Disguises Himself as a Swan to Get Close to Other Birds. I could never go to that extreme for a photo.

3Geese

So what is truly interference? What are the rules? What creature is acceptable and what species are not? My next post is a case in point.

Perched_Sparrow

We have both empathy and contempt for species other than our own. That means we look to save one over another because one is cute and the other well…not? Think cute seals and Great Whites, or in the case of your backyard, sparrows and Sparrow Hawks.  It is fine (or is it?) when it is actually a sparrow, most don’t like them. But what if it is an adorable chickadee or slow-moving dove?

Chickadee

I am just so darn cute!

Just by placing a bird feeder in the yard, it is usurping the natural order of things.

Chickadee_at_Feeder

  • Artificially feeding birds food they would not find foraging is unnatural.
  • Planting a landscape which provides protection from predators creates an artificial habitat.
  • The predators are drawn to the yard by the fact that their prey congregates in numbers.
  • If the hawks are attracted to prey they cannot capture, we have affected the predator/prey relationship.
  • The goal is survival of individuals within the species, not survival of every member of the species.

TwoGeeseFlying

So what should be the limit of our interference?

I believe there is acceptable interference in the case of feeding birds. I wrestle with the questions though since I do know that any landscape we create is unnatural, Simple as Looking at Your Own Garden.  I accept the loss of songbirds on occasion too.  See my post on So How Beneficial is Feeding Backyard Birds?

GeseFlightPattern

Is there a degree of ethics involved?

Go out and take baby birds from their nest (like is a recommended solution to sparrow problems), that would be unethical, unless of course it is a species we deem a nuisance.

GeeseLanding

To interfere in a predator/prey situation could be detrimental to the predator, so that too becomes unethical, unless one of the two species involved is endangered or desired more (like Harrier Hens attacking Red Grouse). A question of questionable ethics?

So what was the post that had the comment? Hawk on the Hunt in My Garden.

I believe the comment was in question to me entering the yard during a predator hunt. The hawk patiently was waiting for a sparrow to falter and flush, but by me sneaking up on the hawk with my camera, the sparrows left the protection of the conifers and made haste to a safe exit. The hawk just sat and watched without attack. Here are a few of the other comments:

  • Too bad it did not lunch on English Sparrows!
  • I kind of feel bad for the hawk, all that work and no food.
  • I’m sure those sparrows think of you as their savior!!!!

1Goose

Do you think the images of the geese are arbitrary in this post?

That is a bird we see as a pest, one we eliminate, one we try to keep from our habitats, all the while creating places far too optimal for them and the way in which they live. Interfering in nature is something that humans ultimately do, and we created the abundance of the beautiful Canada Goose we now loathe.

I know I am not a biologist, but I do share much of their view on this complex question. How much should we interfere? Small scale in backyard feeding, or large-scale in creating a situation ripe for species to reproduce in out of control numbers, native or as an introduced invasive? Do we step in and possibly make it worse?

4Geese

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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64 Responses to If Only If Only – A question of interference in nature

  1. Excellent photos of all feathered foul. Tough questions, these. Only if…to ponder. Diane

    • They are tough questions because there are no satisfactory answers. It depends what hat one is wearing when answering. As an architect, it is inevitable to interfere in a very long term way imposing structures upon a working habitat. As a naturalist or environmentalist, the impact most likely would be lessened by being in the same place. It is impossible the way humans live not to interfere, but we can lessen impact and set aside lands for native plants and animals. As for being in the garden, well, the hawks are guests the way I look at it. I don’t climb to their nesting sites, but they visit mine. It is OK by me, but I never planned on having an all you can eat buffet for them. So I landscaped to avoid making it too easy for them.

  2. Barbie says:

    Very difficult situation to be in – but the photography takes my breath away – so beautiful.

  3. janechese says:

    Great points. I fed the chickadees yesterday because i felt sorry for them(we got a big dump of snow) and if the Canada Geese arrive the parks will be putting out straw for them to stay warm but later will chase them away so humans can use the ponds for sports events. Though they poop a LOT, I am happy to take photographs and observe nature in the city.Mallard ducks are plentiful but I would sure miss them if they were to disappear.

  4. “If only, if only,” …I knew the answers. PS; by the way, Holes, is one my favorite stories/movie.

  5. These are questions I, too, ponder often. I have been involved with animals and the environment for over 27 years, (although it’s not the subject of my blog.) The issue of how much man should involve himself in the natural world – or not – and for what reasons may never be resolved, and especially since people have so many different views of it, sadly, often motivated by politics and money. Look at what’s happening with the wolves in our Northwest.
    Thanks for your stunning photographs.
    Jeanne

  6. I think I might have made one of those comments. I don’t have a very developed idea of where the line between acceptable and unacceptable interference in nature. It seems to me that it is very difficult to find areas of the USA that have not become “unnatural” due to human impact. It seems that we can only try to contribute to making the environment relatively healthy – more diverse, less toxic. Obviously, I am involved in supplemental bird feeding, as well as planting trees, shrubs, and other plants that provide natural foods for the birds. I try to use the the Audubon Society guidelines for bird feeding, so I feel my approach has something of a seal of approval.

    A really terrific novel that explores this issue is When the Killing Stops, by TC Boyle. It’s about a struggle between animal rights activists and ecologists over the elimination of invasive species in a protected area.

    I think the last time I saw a comment from you you said you had been ill, hope you are doing better.

    • You did make one of the comments. i could have listed all of them too. I know I will not stop feeding birds, but do realize the negatives to it also. Good you use Audubon guidelines. I myself have a backyard that would be fully approved by them and certified by NWF. I will look into the book. I was ill with a very nasty cold and had a big project to finish. All better now and done.

  7. Phil Lanoue says:

    One thing I strive for in my wildlife photos is that the action or behavior portrayed in the photos would have happened whether I was there to witness and photograph it or not. I try to never interfere or influence animal behavior even though there were times I wanted to.

    • You are one photographer to follow for sure. I would love to get the images that you do and see the birds you photograph. Many photographers are careful in natural habitats, at least the ones that I follow. I did not think I was interfering until sparrows started flying out left and right. I knew I created that situation too. I have snuck up on hawks before in my yard and never have the songbirds left their safety. But none got eaten at least.

  8. b-a-g says:

    The geese pictures are beautiful, I didn’t know they are invasive. Probably not as invasive as humans though.

  9. Sue Gaviller says:

    Hi Donna,

    I often visit your blog to get a real good photography fix (today’s shots are so stunning they literally sent shivers down my spine), but I always find you also have so many wise words to offer, even if they be in the form of unanswerable questions. The best response I have to the questions you pose is that while we indeed walk this planet earth, we ought to tread lightly and think carefully. I feed the birds………but not the bears. I’ve rescued baby robins from falcons………and I’ve rescued baby falcons. The rabbits and squirrels drive me crazy when they eat my prized plants but I’ve learned to recognize that they too have a role……..maybe to feed the falcons.

    As I write this my husband calls from his walk on Nose Hill (a huge natural prairie park space) – a squawking magpie has alerted him to the presence of coyotes, so dog goes on her leash. The magpie is a much derided bird in these parts (unfairly so I think), but it may have just saved my dog from a dangerous confrontation with a pack of coyotes.

    You commented a while back that I had the blog you once wanted to have (i.e. very design-centric), but I’m so glad this isn’t the route you took – what you offer is so much bigger; truly a perspective on the “Greater Garden of Nature”. Thanks for another great post.

    Sue

    • Thank you Sue. I follow the Silent Spring thoughts of tread lightly too. But because there is so many of us and so many of little means (like where does the next meal come from), worry on the environment gets back burner treatment. It is only when it affects areas in a monumental way, like serious drought, or marine life washing ashore, do people get really involved, but it is regional involvement for the most part. How about nature photographers out on the savannahs in Africa? When the mother lion is killed and the babies have no recourse but face certain death without intervention from people observing and photographing? Or when an animal is severely injured and is still alive only to have a prolonged agonizing death? There is nothing the photographers can or should do. Or should they try? I could not stand by even though I know it is necessary and the right thing to do. Like I said in my post https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2013/02/25/a-blizzard-brings-out-the-hawks/ and https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2013/03/12/hawk-on-the-hunt-in-my-garden/. In one I stand by and observe, in the other I interfere unwittingly.

      On the farm, the coyotes are all over and they do take much wildlife. The farm dog takes more though. Sad to see on both counts. As for design, I have a post up soon for advice to gardeners and you will be surprised the stand I take. After reading blogs for so long and seeing the advice given and discussed I just have one simple suggestion to beginners. As a designer for over twenty years, and Master Gardener for over ten, my advice will seem like just duh, really that simple?

  10. Brian Comeau says:

    It seems that we generally do make things worse when we try to intervene and work against nature. In the book The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus, Jacques Cousteau talks about fisherman getting rid of the otters because they ate the abalone. But otters also each sea urchins who eat kelp which happens to be where abalone lay eggs. As the otter population decreased the sea urchin population increased. As the fisher realized the increased sea urchin population meant less kelp which meant less protection for abalone eggs. The fishermen again taking matters into their own hands started to kill sea urchins by smashing them… releasing more eggs. This just compounded the problem. More sew urchins born and more kelp eaten. Mother nature usually has a better way of managing itself.

    We also have a huge problem with deer out in the suburbs as more and more land is taken. But many people think they are helping by feeding them, when in fact they are just bringing them out into the traffic and causing more accidents. If the deer were less dependant on people and went further and further into the woods away from the residential areas the problem would likely be less of an issue. Still a problem because we do use so much land but not likely as big of a problem as it is now.

    • Your example on the otters happens so frequently and does not surprise me. Nature has a solution for all problems. Makes me wonder what will be the solution for us one day. Just noting deer, the loss of their predators is why we face having to cull them frequently. As a designer, it is almost impossible to keep ahead of the deer problem in the suburbs. There are cases of bear or cougars moving into some areas too. Habitat loss, easy pickins, whatever the reason, it is inevitable. I agree on the feeding of the deer. On the tree and shrub farm, the fields need protection from deer, so they plant corn on the perimeter of the tree fields to keep deer from ruining the nursery trees. It works great too. They also hunt the property which keeps deer down.

      Some of my clients feed corn to the deer for the same reason, to keep them from eating the landscape plants, but that is counter productive in that case because they can not possibly feed in enough quantity to keep the deer from the fresh greenery. I don’t say anything because they like seeing the deer visit. I just have the landscaper burlap the susceptible shrubs in winter.

  11. Marguerite says:

    It’s an intriguing question and almost impossible to answer I think. As you say, our very existance is interfering. But in many ways we need boundaries. Brings to mind something I once heard about forest management. The more we manage, the more that needs managing. We could certainly learn to step back a bit. Nature doesn’t need us as much as we think it does.

    • You really made a perfect point. Nature probably doesn’t need us at all. We just need to modify nature. And in that case, nature always fights back to win! I agree on boundaries too. But where one thing is done to a benefit, it always seems like twenty more are done to be a negative. Like another commenter said, if money and politics are involved, you can surely count on the negatives being the biggest impact.

  12. That is a lot to chew on…Sadly I think it is all a matter of degree. We can’t reduce our impact to zero, but we can eliminate our most egregious actions.

    • I think it is almost impossible with the population increases in the last number of years. We can all be better stewards, but the problem with that is, it is just a tiny percentage of those willing to be environmentally conscious, let alone non-interfering. Like you and I said, it is a matter of degree. But in the case of backyard feeding, 65 million of us in the US alone, so any action multiplied is quite a bit, with both the positive and negative effects.

      • I understand the consequences, and the complexity. I understand that it is not as simple as our first Americans with a philosophy of not having a footprint that leaves a trace. I am just not sure how to move forward with it. I have to chew on this a bit.

        • It is funny, but I just mentioned living in the time of the first Americans (coming here from Europe) and how I would have liked that, being sustainable at a time when it was possible. But to better that, a time of the native Americans. They really had a much better way to live, using only what the land afforded and not taking more than they needed. Also, honoring the lives they did take.

  13. Donna, your post made me to recall “The Great sparrow campaign” in China (1958). Sparrows were eliminated, locust populations increased,ecological balance destroyed…… that led to a number of problems including starvation. Rats, mosquitoes and flies were also included in that campaign. Amazing story! I’m not sure everyone remembers that lesson.

  14. This is such an age old question now. To participate in nature or to stand apart from it. I would be like you, wanting an image of the hawk and slinking out there in hopes of a perfect image. I’m fortunate that the area I live in is lush with water and food. It would be cruel to do that in a harsh environment where resources are scarce. With the feeders, I get the regular visitors and not the full-blown wild birds who chose to go to natural areas to live their natural lives. Good luck with this post. it sure strikes up the conversation.

    • Living next to their habitat at the Niagara Gorge (just one half block away) they really don’t need to prowl the feeders, but it is just too tempting. Even though this hawk missed a sparrow snack, he could just go ‘home’ and catch a few chipmunks. I like to think mice, but I always see lots of chipmunks.

  15. I am one who believes in as little interference as possible…within reason. However, I realize that in our man made communities feeding birds is interfering on some level. And I have removed a dead nestling in a nest positioned under my deck stairs in an effort to protect the remaining birds and nestlings. It is something I grapple with as I observe and foster the wildlife in and around my property. Neighbors call me to remove snakes on their property because they respect my wishes that they not be destroyed since they are beneficial. In my removal and release elsewhere, am I not interfering with their beneficial activities? I find it difficult to make this a black and white issue because if we are to live with these creatures, how can we merely sit back and observe in all cases? A very thought-provoking post, Donna.

    • Thank you. I know it is impossible to sit back and observe in most cases. We as photographers can as we record moments in time, but as gardeners and homeowners, it is an interactive approach to nature. We interject our ‘plan’ for a site that displaces, and destroys as we place and create. It is something we also can’t avoid, because like all creatures, we need our homes too. I keep thinking as I get older and more reflective on living life, that there were times in our history where we were more forgiving of the environment and much more sustainable. We made things from the land, and didn’t have to buy or accumulate them. It was a time I think I would have enjoyed living – well maybe not the killing of my livestock for food, but that is what husbands are for!!! I never thought this post would turn in such a world view way. It all started because I made a mistake and should have stayed inside. The hawks come here daily, so honestly, they have little regard for me anyway.

  16. Reed says:

    Just to introduce a different perspective… What if we (humans) are part of the grand plan. We are just like any other species on the planet, some may consider us a virus or a top level predator, but maybe nature’s plan was to introduce us and have us travel the world and take and bring back invasive species, disease, culture and everything else. Maybe our presence is to observe and take our share, to feed the birds in winter to keep them in cold climates so that they adapt, to plant hydrangeas in Minnesota so they can evolve, to stop wildfires before they burn out forests and allow things to start over.

    Maybe birds and whales and deer and otters need to get used to us photographing them, for we are as much a part of this world as they are, and if our influence changes their behavior then couldn’t that just be part of the plan.

    Whose to say that in 20,000 years there isn’t a new intelligence that will have its effect upon the planet. Did the Gorillas know what was happening in the Chimpanzee family…they had no idea that man was coming and chances are we will have no idea when the next evolution comes. Our flaw may be our hubris. Only our egos allow us to believe we are smart enough to know what is next.

    I do believe that as a species we need to become more responsible and adapt as we see our tremendous impact on the world, but if we look at nature, doesn’t it always find a way to balance out when life gets out of proportion. Maybe the loss of many species paves the way for new species: Animals, plants, disease. Maybe with the new super bugs that have been born from our abuse of Anti-biotics, our human population could be cut by 10% or 50% in the next century. Maybe man, just like any other species, just can’t help itself.

    I apologize for going on as I am a little philosophical on the eve of my 49th birthday on this planet. While I have said a lot, I am not espousing irresponsible behavior, in fact I believe we do need to take more responsibility and look at our collective actions, but we are part of this planet and need to interact in our environment.

    • You really have very good alternative points. I said the same thing at the beginning of the post, “Are we integral and deemed the natural process in the grander metaphysical sense of things?” I think hubris says it all when you look at it from that perspective. If we are the grand plan and affect all as you mention, then the depletion of species at such record numbers is part of that plan. And the 7,104,606,798 people (as per the World Clock, I reference it a lot) are also part of the plan. We do a bang up job keeping our numbers in check, no? Do you foresee 20,000 years more of us in the future? You are absolutely right, nature will self correct. It is the only choice there is. People are not going to do it unless we blow ourselves up and take half the world with us, or like you said, the super bugs. Makes no difference. But everyone sees the error in either, unless that is part of the grand plan, where we undo ourselves. It would not make us the smartest species on the planet though. Can you image if there was an undo button to push? How many times would it have been employed?

      I do think you might be right that the timeline of things that occur is somewhat preordained. We do what we do because that is how it was determined. The pathway laid, but does that leave choice? If is does, we aren’t making good choices. I always looked at earth as like what heaven is, but somehow hell slipped in. We had all the makings of heaven and some places around the globe really are anything but. You look at the beauty the world has to offer and counter it with what humans have done to create things that are not beautiful in anyway. Sure we create beauty, but we also destroy beauty too.

      Thanks for your long thoughtful comment. It creates a lot to discuss.

  17. alesiablogs says:

    Interesting comments. My take on nature is that it is a gift from God and to be respected. We are to maintain her, not destroy her. Yet as we are by our very “nature” selfish- we choose to take take take.

    • It is such a noble view to look at nature as a gift. I say that often too, but the reality is we all take advantage of that notion in one way or another, and as you say, take, take , take. Also, the reality, it is for the taking, being the problem. We have to use things of nature to survive like all things and that is the irony of the question. There could never be something not sacrificed to maintain the life of another. Why God made too many of anything I guess. The many support the few and all is in check, of course until it isn’t. Like in the case of the Sparrows. Many are becoming few in some places around the world.

  18. Andrea says:

    Hi Donna, you always can invite deeper thoughts and wonderful comments, I even remember the W4W which inspired many of us then. I also read some comments here mostly that of Reed. I sometimes think that we are a world destined to be doomed because of what we have done and undone as a species. It is still a world with fixed carrying capacity, still a world where ‘survival of the fittest’ works. I wonder if it really is our species that made the greatest wrongs! I wonder why we were given that mind, which thinks of the species first before its neighbor. I have lots of “wonder if” and yes “if only”s. What if we are wrong, and who will say we are not! We are the most notorious species in changing everything on earth, and I want to be immortal to see the outcome of all this!

    • I remember the term carrying capacity well from my university days. Designing sustainable, environmentally sound communities, we looked to nature for inspiration, to understand the checks and balance – and to design with the land, in deference to. The problem with that utopian idea is that we also have to maintain OUR numbers to work within the carrying capacity. If each human has a ‘job’ and purpose within the community to keep it running and functioning, there has to be a limit on us too. You would think common sense would prevail, but that limitation makes a huge moral/ethical issue. In the ideological or even theological sense, who or what else could be the cause of the “greatest wrongs” if not the most numerous and successful species? That is what I see as contrary to Reed’s view. When I did study sustainable design, I was quick to note what group was the problem just by figuring out how to support so many of us. It is not possible.

  19. catmint says:

    hi Donna and commenters, thanks for thoughtful, thought-provoking ponderings. As you say, there is no right answer. We need to have difficult and important discussions like this to sort out our values to decide what is right. Then we have the challenge to communicate with policy makers and people who have different values to us. Like those who value short term financial gain over the health of the ecosystem.

    • I think you make a good point. It gives people pause and even a way to discuss, rethink and reassess. Even if there is no way to make less interference or impact, at least be cognizant of that which we do. That surely could lead to working with policy makers or even becoming a political cog in the wheel. The idealists never last long though. And those that do just speak without really saying anything. The rhetoric from both sides is always numbing. Finances and greed always win. Wanting and taking is hard wired into us. Animals don’t generally take more than they need, but they do take it when presented – unless fully satiated. Humans don’t get satiated.

  20. We are part of the ecosystem. We simply have to decide what our role will be.

    To be respectful of other living creatures, some people don’t eat meat. There was a sect in one religion some centuries back (perhaps it was Jainism) that took this view to an extreme and didn’t want to walk outside for fear of treading on insects and eventually didn’t want to eat plants, either. The sect died out.

    If we grow food for ourselves, we change the ecosystem. If we pick wild foods, we change the ecosystem.

    One thing I think might be helpful is to refrain from anthromorphizing animals. To understand animals and the ecosystem better, it would help not to think of some as cute and others as mean. They’re all just animals trying to survive.

    • No doubt we are a part. The problem is that we are such a big, overwhelming part. I do remember reading of cultures that restricted their footprint to the extreme and like you said died out in their ‘ignorance’. I have to think on your comment, “If we grow food for ourselves, we change the ecosystem. If we pick wild foods, we change the ecosystem.” While there is no question that it has some repercussion from us being there, the insect that munches the same plants we grow and eat also is making an impact (especially on the plant and what it produces), but changing the ecosystem? A new plant grows to replace and some insects and birds help that happen. And in your example, we do that too. The ecosystem thrives as long as a balance is maintained. But realistically, there never is a balance of nature, because nature is always changing and evolving. That kind of supports Reed’s point too. In my story of interfering with the hawk wanting to catch a meal, it would have been more ‘natural’ being three feet away from said hawk, that I made a dinner of him. It seems that is the way of the world.

  21. Sadly, the human hand is everywhere and it at the expense of most other living things and I certainly don’t think we as a species have the ability to step outside ourselves and to see ourselves as a thread in a woven fabric that is life on this earth, rather than the masters of this earth given to us by god.
    Your thoughts are very meaningful and thank you posting it and maybe someday all our thoughts will be to the importance of our home and to all living things that share it, more than the other human concerns that fills our everydays’.

    • I like your blog name. I too, even though I design and build for a living, am an antilandscaper. I look at all the things we created to destroy life, from pesticides to guns, and think why? What is to point? There is whole industries existing on the notion of destruction. You are very right. We rarely step outside ourselves and look back in. One commenter mentioned having the ability to be immortal and look back. Can you imagine? I know I would be quick to push the undo button. But then, what would that do? The change always affects what was to be. Way beyond in philosophical thinking, something far to complex for my brain to rationalize. I look at the big picture often and see how the parts make the whole. It is how an architect designs, but that is too simplistic to apply to nature, because the interactions between parts leaves for too many possibilities. That is our main problem when we try to ‘fix’ nature. The parts don’t act as we anticipate and often make for worse outcomes. The web grows and compounds.

  22. HolleyGarden says:

    Too bad we can’t see all the consequences of our actions before we take them. Like Brian commented above, I think many times we humans interfere and end up making things worse, instead of better. But, I imagine since man has been around, we have interfered with nature. It’s just part of our nature! 🙂

  23. Not sure I could add more to this great discussion, but I try to interfere as little as possible and accept all critters even those pesky voles…I could never remove a baby bird from a nest but I know people do…I do not feed birds normally as I did not want to interfere with nature, but in those harsh environments of winter we get here I may do a bit of it again… but not all year as my garden provides lots of food for birds….I think we need to be aware of what we are doing as we move through our environment and think if only we did or did not do something….

    • Some time you should list by quantity all the plants that you provide in your garden, It would be helpful to others. I find most all plants in my own garden are exhausted by winter. I can not provide them in quantity like in hedgerows for instance, the Viburnum, Rugosa roses and Juniper are a good example of this. They are so tasty that birds pick them clean as soon as they are ripe. The same with the Mulberry, winterberry, crabapple and Rudbeckia which I do have in drifts. All are the first plants eaten in Fall, which is a perfect time for when birds bulk up before winter. The pear is the only plant that hangs on to fruit until Spring. Birds are still feasting on it, blue jays and cardinals especially. The cotoneaster also holds fruit a long time. I have them in numbers too. I do have barberry an invasive, but the birds really eat this plant too.

      There are many cone producers here, but I have not been able to attract birds that eat the seed from the small cones. The Rose of Sharon and sumac on my property line are also great plants for birds. The key really is having berry and seed producing plants in numbers. Not only does it bring in the birds, it gives a longer season of feeding. I often plant hedgerow of Viburnum, Red-Osier Dogwood, Red Chokeberry, Summersweet Clethra, Common Elderberry, Serviceberry and blueberry at client properties, among hoards of trees for a longer time of feeding. That is an advantage of having huge properties. They really do become habitats for birds and insects that feed the birds. I cannot really have a habitat here with such a small property.

  24. Jennifer says:

    Great post Donna. To mind, the question of “should we?” has been answered by the fact that we do interfere with nature. Humans are often arrogant and feel we know what is best for other creatures and nature as a whole. I think the more pertinent question is “How should we?”
    I got a great chuckle from the photographer in the swan camouflage. I have to say his images were pretty nice tough.

    • I agree that humans are arrogant and feel we are the ones that need to direct the course of things. “How should we” is a good way to put the question, but in the case of “Should we,” it is more in the frame of when an animal is injured or in peril in the wild, do we step in. Biologists, naturalists, and researchers would say no I believe in the case of a wounded gazelle on the savannah, where an environmentalist might in an oil spill on a coastline to save shorebirds.

      Like Phil stated above, ” is that the action or behavior portrayed in the photos would have happened whether I was there to witness and photograph it or not.” That is a perfect way to look at it for us taking photos. BTW, you should take a look at his photographs. He has the most beautiful wildlife images.

  25. My feelings..I live on a shared pond. It attracts waterfowl. People tolerate the ducks, hate the geese. One year someone shot all the geese on the pond and left them dead and dying in the pond. My husband and I were out gathering them up. I feel that we.. man has caused so many problems for wildlife that we owe them at least a nod that they have a right to the planet as we do

    We eliminate habitat and make man-made alternatives and then get angry when the geese take us up on our offer. Geese by rights should be eating native grasses and insects which have the nutritional value they need. But we use pesticides and fertilizers and grasses that have no nutritional value. Geese have to eat a lot of our lawns to get the nutrition that they would get in a real natural setting. Also it is illegal to tamper with any birds that are native..

    There is no good or bad wildlife. You can’t put that label on them. They are what they are. Hawks kill to eat. The mink comes and takes the muskrat whom I enjoyed, but that is what they do. Feeding birds in winter may well help the residents survive the winter and come into breeding season in better shape. Even more important is water.

    I take photos and make every effort not to disturb nesting birds, animals with young etc. I don’t call them in to feed them and I never ever feed them by hand. I try to be respectful of all the wildlife in my yard….Michelle

    • The problem with interfering in nature is that there never is a place to stop. The ‘solutions’ cascade to more problems to solve. It is very true that there is not good and bad in nature, only nature itself, but it is also situational as well. I am sure a gazelle looks at a lion as bad news in its habitat. It may not categorize it like we do, but fear gives it all the knowledge it needs to know a bad situation will arise. To interrupt a prey/predator situation always leaves one party without.

      How would one call in birds to feed? Like a turkey or duck call? I have to look that one up because I did not realize it can be done on songbirds. I too don’t feed by hand, but have been where I could actually pet doves or touch a woodpecker. They become so accustomed to the one that brings the food.

      At the farm, there are both wild deer and tame deer. There is a big difference between the two. I would never approach a wild deer, but the tame ones have no fear of humans as they were all hand reared. Many do not differentiate because they apply the cute standard to animals like deer and do not think of them harming humans, but I have seen that is not the case. At rutting season, even the friendly deer turn dangerous. The wild is always in them.

  26. supernova says:

    Hi Donna, I take your points to heart and also agree with Michelle of Rambling Woods. An example in the UK I would like to relate is the ongoing “debate” about Cormorants. The birds are coming inland to fish as the human race has depleted food fish stocks around our coast for these and other birds. Some people are calling for a cull of the birds when they have only adapted to what extreme human interference has created and still continues to create.
    We are destroying habitat and food sources for many species and also hunting them down because we think it is our absolute right, we come first and everything else is secondary in importance.
    When it comes to an opportunity to make money, I’ve had answers from people like “well that’s progress” or “they are only animals”. This is what we are up against.

    I’m for feeding birds in the garden or helping animals in distress anywhere, like taking care of a big cats cubs if the mother is killed.
    The large picture of man’s interference in nature is in construction, agriculture and fisheries which we have tried to optimise for our own needs. What we provide for the environment and wildlife in return is minimal, I think, as individuals and communities alike, we should do whatever we can.

    OK, I accept there are things in nature which we should not interfere with, predators take the weak for example, this maintains a healthy gene pool both for the prey and the predator – the prey is healthier and faster and the predator has to be in top shape to catch it! Natural selection at work!

    I don’t want to appear morbid, but I think humans only have a limited time left on this planet and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing! Our greed, selfishness and so called “religious conflict” are going to be our end and serve us right!
    We have raped this planet and the realisation of what we have done has come too late. Even now, with all the knowledge we have concerning the importance of the rain forest and the ocean, money still talks the loudest.
    Here’s an article from Scientific American saying that 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed per day and another 80,000 acres degraded on top of that!

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talks-daily-destruction

    Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of people who are fighting the good fight and they are to be commended greatly! I have admiration for them and I try to do my bit too, but I still feel the majority of people do not care beyond their own needs!

    Government legislation in the UK has imposed a size limit on fish which can be taken from the sea by trawlers etc. What is not generally publicized is that the smaller fish are thrown back into the sea, but they are already dead!
    Yes, all the nations need to come together and help each other, to be as one on this issue but in the end it will ultimately be decided by money and/or resources (oil)! Oh Dear!

    Very intelligent and thought provoking post Donna and I enjoyed the comments from our fellow bloggers. Thanks to all, regards James 🙂

    • Wow, James what a useful comment. You really added to the discussion and have a comment worth reading. My current post is on blogging with value and how many words it takes to make a post of interest. It deals with do we prefer the long post or social media’s 140 characters? Your comment is 532 words and says more than many do in posts of three time the word count. No I did not count your words, I let WP do it. I am not that obsessive compulsive. 😀

      I very much like your example on the Cormorants. I am sure they are a nuisance here in coastal towns as well. I see them here on their migration. I saw two flying to Canada yesterday. Our nuisance bird is the Canada Goose. There was a time when people raised them to hunt, kill and eat. But the local governments stepped in and now they are eliminated in many ways. When it is those same governments, big and small, that created the parks, golf courses, and vacant lands they come and visit.

      I agree on your “morbid” point too. I write on this sustainability issue often where humanity will get what it deserves one day. There are too many of us and what can be done? Nothing ethical. So we keep increasing in population for the sake of individuals and their care about oneself attitudes. Not that having more kids is wrong per say, it just is something perpetuates the root of all the problems we face.

      I always love your comments. They are very though provoking and very direct. Since I mentioned in my current post to others about finding blogs with great writers, I might as well expose you! Your posts on history are amazing, I always learn and always want to learn more! You make the dry subject of history interesting.

      • supernova says:

        Thank you so much Donna, I am overwhelmed by what you have said and I learn so much from you too. There are many times I’ve thought about how intelligent and interesting your posts are and always on a subject so important.
        I must say that you inspire me greatly and I’ve learned such a lot from you as to how a post should be written and structured.
        Your answers to comments are second to none, the best and you are so knowledgeable and dynamic in your writing that I’m sometimes in awe!
        Speak soon and my very best to you Donna, regards James 🙂

  27. John Hric says:

    I will opt for benign interference. We are part of nature too. Parts we have already been less than benign, like the release of English Sparrows and others in environments they did not originally belong. We have much to learn still. A few observations and studies does not an understanding of nature make. Considering our rate of growth and consumption of resources we will continue to interfere with nature whether we realize it or not. A thought provoking post. Thank you !

    • It is funny how science makes recommendations for release of certain insects to battle certain plants, or animals to control other animals (like Brian mentioned above), then realizes the mistake – too late. I agree with you on only a few studies. They are done on grant and many times ignore other extenuating factors because it is not written in a grant proposal. Other things like intentional ignoring of data because it would make them lose grant money. I gave examples of this in a very long post, https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2011/08/27/the-native-melting-pot-of-plants-what-goes/. It is bizarre what people do when money is involved.

      I often talk about that there are too many of us to be sustainable. A problem with no solution. One day, the time will come and a solution will be had, at the expense of millions. I am sure some will take this overpopulation problem into their own hands. We already have countries where people starve and have no clean water. When that gets to critical mass, what do people think will happen? No doomsday talk, just reality of what will likely come at some future date.

  28. thequeenofseaford says:

    You raise good points. I feed the birds, allow predators to stalk their prey, chase off Canada Geese and try to photograph all of it……..like you. 😉 I just don’t like the geese pooping in my yard.
    Would it be interfering welcoming the predators to come and get the voles and rabbits??

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