Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Wood Thrush and the cat

“Ee-oh-leee . . . ee-oh-lay-oh-weee”, I love that liquid lyrical song. The flute like notes greet me at breakfast with a message of cheerful anticipation of the day ahead and as I finish dinner his restful recital rings with a thankful heart as the sun sets. I have never seen the cinnamon-brown Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) that lives in the wood lot behind my home, not even a glimpse. Sure, I own the property but by all right it is his. Each spring he makes his claim with a melodious call, an invitation to a mate, “come to me”. But I worry, for you see there is a cat, a wild feral cat that lives in the woods with the Wood Thrush. Some cats hunt mice but this particular one hunts and eats birds. According to the American Bird Conservancy cats are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds each year. (Please check out the links at the end of this article.)

I have seen this cunning cat concealed under the bush a few feet from my feeder. I have watched her creep up in the primitive stalking way they do and then lunge at birds. I have seen a scattering of feathers nearby. Did the bird escape or was it the next meal, taken home to feed the kittens who are hiding in the leaves next to the log? But what about the bird’s family? Surely there is a mother bird patiently waiting for her mate to return with a juicy mealworm for their offspring.

I don’t blame the cat; she is just following her path in life, her instinct. But I do blame the one who let the cat out, who abandoned it to fend on its own. Neglect and irresponsibility has created this situation and placed my Wood Thrush songster in danger.

Last weekend I stopped by the Shenandoah River to have lunch when a beautiful white cat walked up to the car and laid down in the sun. Nearby I noticed three empty bowls. Soon two more cats joined in the watch. As I departed I saw another hiding in the weeds. My hope is that some one was trying to lure them with food so they could be caught, taken to a shelter and given to a good home but I have my doubts. Daily I see dead cats on the road, causalities of the morning rush over the mountain. This winter there will be more victims, frozen, starving deep in the woods but we won’t see that tragedy. Cats need to be kept inside and protected, not abandoned.

Oh, you might say I don’t like cats but I have been confronted by wild dogs as well and know how awful that can be. That story I’ll leave for another time. Now, it is for the Wood Thrush that I have concern. My days would be so empty without the slow, pure and simple melody “ee-oh-leee, ee-oh-lay-oh-weee” that floats on the air and inspires.

Click here to hear the call and learn more about Wood Thrushes with their unique complicated syrinx (song box) that allows them to sing two notes at the same time and harmonize with their own voice.

You can read more at: American Bird Conservancy


Rob Fergus blog


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

A nice essay about birds and cats. And thanks for the link to hear the thrush's lovely song. Yes, I agree, cats should be kept indoors (unless you're a farmer and need them to keep the mice out of the barn). You might enjoy my post about cats on my blog Saratoga Woods and Waterways. Go back through the archives to Feb. 2 to see my contented indoor kitties.

SquirrelQueen said...

Excellent post, thank you for placing the blame with the people who allow their pets to roam. I am a strong advocate of having pets spayed and neutered.

You will see my kitty featured often on my blog, she is a little stray that turned up in our yard. She is now a house cat except when she is outside with me in our fenced yard.

If more people would take responsibility for their pets the little wood thrush would be in far less danger.

Trillium said...

Thanks for the reminder about the wood thrush! I don't think they have them in Colorado! Can't wait to hear it again to welcome me back from my trip! BTW, I'm contemplating getting a cat, but this makes me think twice!

kate said...

I am finally catching up on your blog. Excellent post about cats. My 12-year-old cat has only been outside one time for 4 hours when he was let out by a roommate by accident. I fear for the destruction he did in that short time. My neighborhood is full of cats who are allowed outside and roam very far all along the river. I know the cats are happier, but if you keep them in do they really know the difference? Mine seems quite happy to peer over the neighborhood from his perch on our screened in porch.

thanks for this -kate

Rambling Woods said...

You know..I haven't heard a wood thrush this spring or summer.. Darn. And we do have outdoor cats, but then one disappears as we also have the coyote or two.... I have two indoor cats... Michelle