Here at the present abode and for the last ten years, I have fed and photographed the birds, mostly common; Cardinals, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Blue Jays. But sometimes a bird of note comes along. Such was the case this spring when a bird by the name of Painted Bunting appeared and honored me with its presence. With a kaleidoscope of color, the Painted Bunting is unmistakable and arguably the most striking bird to pass through the state of Oklahoma.
The bird is photo tolerant. About a week ago, one of them patiently perched on my feeder, content to dine on millet, while I set up a tripod and camera not twenty feet away. I had two, maybe three days of opportunity with this beauty before tragedy struck. A feathered body of red, green, blue, and gold lay cold and lifeless on my garage floor, intact but graveyard dead. The identity of the killer was not in question. Brat Cat, aka The Problem Child, had struck again. The other resident cats around here have neither the physical ability nor the inclination to perform such a dastardly deed.
While a certain amount of predation is to be expected when cats are allowed to roam free (not my choice), the demise of the Painted Bunting, a fairly rare and beautiful bird, was more than I could easily digest. Something had to be done.
The first and obvious move—as painful as it was—was to remove the feeders. Despite the pleasure I get from watching the feathered creatures, I felt it was necessary, as I did not want to be responsible for luring the little creatures to certain death. Other options had their own consequences. I could shoot the cat but the repercussions would be most serious. The Missus looks at her cats as children for the senior citizen. She fusses and clucks over them like a barnyard hen. In her eyes, it’s a case of my birds versus her cats. No contest.
Deterrents in the past were of mixed success. A water gun known as a Super Soaker was semi-effective but only if applied during the act of stalking. Loud noises from banging on a garbage can or angry shouts accompanied by the throwing of heavy objects such as a patio broom were likewise without lasting result. A friend suggested bells, those that you attach to a collar. Not the little ringy-ding bells from PetsSmart but a clang-clanger such as you might find in a parakeet cage. However, a Google search revealed that such bells do not work and in fact, studies show that the cats learn how to become even stealthier in their approach. As I saw it, there were two other possible solutions.
One, build a wire fence beneath the feeders or two; attach a shock collar such as the ones used to train dogs. I must admit that option number two held great appeal, not only for the revenge factor, but for entertainment value as well. I could think of nothing more satisfying that melting her little feline ass to the ground just as she made her closing charge. But there was the cost factor, eighty dollars as compared to eighteen or so for the fence. That and knowing full well that the cat would somehow rid herself of the collar, losing it in a vast field of weeds and brush, leaving me holding a remote shocker control with nothing to shock.
The fence was installed today and already I’ve seen the return of a Cardinal, an Indigo Bunting, and yes, believe it or not, another Painted Bunting, probably the last of its kind. I will observe the success of this setup in the coming days. But not without a glass of whisky at my side and a 20 gauge shotgun across my lap, cocked and loaded.
This could get interesting.