By PETTUS READ
As a young boy walking the lanes of my grandparents’ farm, I often heard the beautiful calls of a certain bird that seemed to make those days a little bit brighter, no matter what the purpose of my trip involved. If the walk involved getting up the milk cows for the afternoon milking, the birds’ distinctive whistles seemed to blend with the cadence of each step of the cud chewing cows turning over each gravel in the lane. But, if the bird was perched high in a hackberry tree on a early summer morning, as I made my way to the farm pond with a can of worms and a cane pole for some sun perch fishing, his melody of sweet tunes seemed to make the carefree walk more enjoyable. Sort of like one of those zippity-do-da days you used to sing about where a blue bird would sit on your shoulder. Yes, those were the most perfect days in the world as a child growing up. When your thoughts were tuned to cows walking, gravel turning and birds singing.
The bird that blended my thought patterns way back then still exists on that farm and seems to be well suited for the habitat of the wooded area for all these many years. I’m now 65 years of age and all my life the Northern Cardinal has filled the woods along with the undergrowth of our farm. The vibrant red of the male beams from the tree limbs as the dull red-brown shaded female will usually be seen close by. They have always been around our farmhouse and we have worked hard over the years at keeping them there. I maintain feeders of their favorite seed just to get a glimpse of my “red birds” each morning from the kitchen window and when the male marks out his territory by song, his musical tune always brings back a lot of pleasant memories of sunny days walking an old farm lane.
It’s good to see familiar wildlife that I grew up with on the farm and each day as I grow older their presence makes the memory process more enjoyable. Today, our Tennessee farms are seeing new wildlife moving in that I often wonder what their final population will mean to our native species. Growing up during those days of walking that farm lane, I never saw a deer. Today, in fact just the last few days, deer are now after my cardinal feeders to the point I have to make changes just to protect them. Their numbers grow, along with coyote, fire ants, armadillo, black neck buzzards and hawks. As these numbers of wildlife increase, the number of plentiful wildlife we once enjoyed such as rabbit and quail continue to decrease in number. Makes you wonder where will it all lead.
It will require those of us who do own land to be more aware of providing habitat for native wildlife like rabbit and quail. Since private land and farms provide the homes for 75 percent of our wildlife, it’s up to us to be the caretakers of this natural resource, which I feel our farmers do a good job doing. But, with the invasion of many new species that do not belong here, they may need help from hunters, review of government regulations and the public as well.
When I caught a deer the other afternoon on one of my expensive bird feeders, it reminded me of a program that could help with the deer population, as well as feed hungry people. During deer season each year, hunters often fill their own freezers to the point where they no longer have room for any more game or reach their limit. Often does escape to reproduce and give us even more deer as a hunter waits for the big buck to come by. However, if more hunters would get involved in the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters For The Hungry program, we could reduce the deer herd and feed hungry people.
The program is pretty simple reports TWF. The Department of Agriculture certified deer processors across the state accept donations of whole deer, and the meat is distributed to a network of food banks and soup kitchens. The number of deer the processors can accept is only limited by the amount of funding available to cover the cost of preparing the venison. Quotas are established by the county and based on available funding; when those resources are exhausted, hunters are asked to cover the cost. Last year more than 135,000 pounds of venison was donated, but much more could be accepted and given. Plus you don’t even have to be a hunter to participate. Tax-deductible donations can also be made. For more information of the program contact TWF at the Federation's website at www.tnwf.org, by calling TWF headquarters at (615) 353-1133, or by making a donation to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, 300 Orlando Avenue, Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37209.
I do like my red birds and prefer that the deer don’t use my feeders as their McDonald’s.
- Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org