We've noticed an interesting phenomenon this summer. Dustbunny, the escape artist cat, has caused a stir in the bird community. Dusty has a habit of sneaking out because she has the uncanny ability of knowing when we are thinking about getting up and turning the doorknob. We've always tried to keep her in because she has an incredible talent for catching shrews in our garden, which upsets our nature loving family immensely. It's one thing to see death happen in the wild, but to have your overfed, pampered tabby cause death is a great burden of responsibility.
And then it got worse. No longer content with shrews, Dusty began setting her sights on the birds and chipmunks. A definite no-no. We've saved many chipmunks (or the same chipmunk over and over again?) from the jaws of death. Last year, I saved an ungrateful fledgling cardinal. But this year we were not in time to save a small bird I later identified as a Yellow-rumped Warbler. We were all heartbroken. Dusty was trying the patience of all of us.
By "all" I include the birds. I think that was the last straw for them as well. I began to notice that when I couldn't find Dusty after an escape, I could usually "hear" where she was. Not because she was making noise, but because every bird in the area had begun chirping, in strong short tones. At first it was just the chickadees, robins and jays, but it soon developed into a full scale Avian Early Warning Emergency Alert System. I'm always amazed at the diversity of birds that keep their eyes on her under the trees. Along with the birds I've mentioned, I've seen: catbirds, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, titmice, and house wrens. All raise their voices in a unison to let the cat know she's being watched. It works well, too. Now that Hobgoblin, our young orange cat, has been taking escape lessons, the alert system helps us quickly locate him before he can get too far. Birds and people, working together to keep the backyard safe from feline predation.