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Cat tales and more

I must begin this article with a confession: I occasionally let my house cat roam in our yard, though usually not by design. She has a way of slipping through my feet when I open the door.

Sure enough, a week ago, an hour after one of her jailbreaks, she marched up to the door with a deceased eastern chipmunk clenched in her jaws. It must have been a remarkable display of feline prowess, considering my cat’s age, girth, sedentary habits and various arthritic infirmities — but it was not, it must be said, entirely unexpected.

For while chipmunks are, thankfully, an abundant rodent, many less common, more vulnerable creatures — in particular, songbirds — end up on the wrong end of a predatory pet or feral feline.  How many?  Reliable estimates put the figure at tens of millions of birds each year, enough to make a noticeable dent in avian populations.

At a party recently, I was gratified to meet someone who is working to trap feral cats so that they can be neutered and sheltered, hopefully to find a friendly home in the end.  It was a welcome reminder that feral cats should not be fed outdoors and that house cats should stay where they belong: in the house.  That reminder applies, of course, to me, too.

A number of conservation organizations have materials and resources about keeping cats indoors, the best of which is the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors! Campaign (abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats).

Notes: Mid-October brings the big push of migratory blue jays. While many jays remain for the winter, others shift their range southward in the fall.  Flocks of often impressive size can be seen flying by, especially along river valleys, but elswhere as well. I saw several good-size flocks while playing tennis at The Hotchkiss School’s courts last weekend, along with large flocks of red-winged blackbirds and common grackles.

Ona Kiser of Sharon reported a sighting of our resident albino red-tailed hawk, which I wrote about last spring.

Fred Baumgarten is a writer and naturalist living in Sharon. He can be reached at fredb58@sbcglobal.net.

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