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COLUMN: To feed or not to feed ... that is the burning question

'There is across the land some no small level of discussion as to whom shall be rightful, and to whom shall scorn be placed upon,' says columnist
Tree sparrows tarry on a branch. Perhaps they are waiting to be fed?

Harken gentle readers, gather round to have discourse upon a subject most dear, to have words considered that may cause both discontent and, in opposition, gentleness of mind.

There is across the land some no small level of discussion as to whom shall be rightful, and to whom shall scorn be placed upon.

To supplemental feed or not to supplemental feed, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous costs of sunflower seed, suet blocks and feeders, or take action against the sea of ravenous black squirrels and by withholding seeds thus end them? 

By such opposing we say to end the heart-ache of the lowly bank account yet shoulder the thousand shocking looks cast upon us by the squirrely tree rats? 

And yet to risk the feeder's void be filled by some other species of equally vile intent, and cause the heart to weep again (Fie upon the red squirrel, Fie upon it!) … ay, there's the rub.

Canst not these creatures of the wild, and all their brethren, survive a mere winter of deprivation? Is not their larder filled to brim with samples of our late fall garden or seeds most weedy? When and where didst this notion come upon us that we should supplement their feedings with offerings both copious and foreign? Where indeed?

Some may bluster that it is but a woman's heart of pity to share this daily bread with those outside, yet surely those who think such thoughts must also weigh the actions of men most hardy who, upon a mere gaze of the empty feeder's chamber will bundle himself most tightly and brave such elements as only Nature can provide, to place upon the shelves and platforms morsels of sunflower, millet and corn, laid with care and lightness of heart.

Tis an affliction that consumes us all. For we will ponder, when time allows, what of ourselves in such a placement? Would not a handout be most graciously accepted, a handout unexpected yet consumed with gusto knowing full well that to tarry would mean the loss of such to a butt-into-line other? Yes, yes… we ponder sometimes deep and not with words but with images within our minds of scenes not pleasant. No, not pleasant at all.

Yet we do have foolish notions even with our good intentions. The squirrel we curse, the hawk as well, yet the brown-eyed bunny is a source of oohs, and aws, but only now, not in summer when lettuce leaves are nipped clean off! Strange indeed our heart's compassion, so selfish in the hour of need yet so hard when softness may reward.

Ah, but now the bright white owls surround us, hunting over hill and dale for bits of warm flesh that may wander foolishly about the day. Ho! Once the day did see us shoot them, ecosystems torn asunder by fear and loathing as we railed against these evil icons. But as the gentle reader now surely knows, times have changed and times move on. 

To feed a blue jay is an action approved by most today, and so, too, the deer, the cardinals, the cheeky chickadees (ah, the chickadee that alights upon my fingers, oh bliss), wee sparrows, finches of diversity and those as well that pick at tree bark yet sup on suet. All these we help with seed piles most heaping, yet come to owls and we stop up short.

Dilemma settles upon us as a fog of indecision. Feed not and let this bird take its chances, chances balanced by Nature in an old, old game… or feed them with procured store-bought mice and watch as owls forget their instincts and come to dine on miraculous food, food appearing from the pockets of the gentlefolk, cameras clicking, children pointing. And what then?

Good people of this region, I share with you a heart and mind divided as to good from evil, right from wrong. Friends, readers and Simcoe Countians, lend an ear and decide for yourself… I come to praise our wildlife not to tame it.

You are all most honourable people, and your actions speak in volumes what your conscience hides within. To feed or not to feed, that is indeed a good question. Tarry but briefly as you consider your response.

Even on this day most dreary with winds of dampness and clouds most heavy, there broke at sunrise a scene most merry. Gazing through my chamber’s portal there was found much flitting and darting, a circus of feathers, as slate caped juncos, jaunty tree sparrows, perky nuthatches (in hues of white or red), woodpeckers hairy and otherwise, all regaled on seeds freely offered.

And now upon me came the troubling thoughts of “what have I done?” Should not by now these birds be under Nature’s great guidance, be on their journey northwards, seeking territories to create new nests to begat new generations? 

Yet here they tarry, seduced by my offerings. Woe and fie, what ripples of change have I created by my actions? Should not they be, by a calendar’s reckoning, on their migration? Oh woe, oh woe, to feed or not to feed, that is the question.