Monday, September 3, 2012

The birds and I share a late-season surprise

Black mulberries!  Yum!

Simply Living
September 3, 2012

Some people think of crows as harbingers of doom but in my yard, the sight of several large black-feathered birds gathered beneath a mulberry tree heralds something decidedly upbeat:  There are ripe berries to pick!

Upon noticing the birds, I grab a bowl, slip on some shoes and head out to the one tree in our yard producing a bumper crop of late-season berries.

As soon as I’m out the door, the crows fly off.  I’ve interrupted their food fest to indulge in one of my own.  We both know ripe mulberries at the end of summer are an out-of-season surprise.  Although none of the other trees is producing a second crop, that’s not a problem.  One tree produces enough berries for all of us to share.

Enjoying an unexpected bounty of late-season berries

That wouldn’t be the case if was early in the season.  In March, when Florida mulberries normally ripen, flocks of cedar waxwings can decimate an entire orchard worth of fruit.  They’ve done that on our property many times over the years.  I’ve watched helplessly while waxwings fly in by the hundreds, descend upon the mulberry branches and methodically devour every berry in sight.  No amount of shooing, hand waving or foot stomping makes a bit of difference.  If cedar waxwings decide to dine on the fruit you planned to pick, you might as well toss your plans aside.  There will be no mulberries left to bake into pie or to stir into your breakfast oatmeal.  Cedar waxwings will have eaten them all.

Crows are much larger than cedar waxwings but not nearly as greedy.  They also have a more varied diet.  While waxwings feed almost exclusively on berries, crows are omnivores willing to swallow just about anything digestible.  Crows seem to view the late season berries the same way I do - a tasty treat to supplement other edibles. 

I have no idea why this one mulberry tree is producing a second crop six months after normal harvest time but, like the crows, I’m an opportunistic feeder.  If berries are ripe, I seek them out and consider myself lucky.  Why waste time wondering why they are there when I could be filling my bucket with delectable tidbits.

Eventually, I would have noticed the ripe mulberries on my own but the crows sped up the process.  They also made me feel more connected to the land.  Reading signs of nature used to be the norm but few of us do that anymore.  Nowadays instead of looking to see if the birds are gathering in the orchard, we leaf through supermarket fliers to see what’s on sale, browse farmers market stands or join a CSA. 

Those of us who are technologically savvy, might even rely upon an app.  Hold that melon you’d like to buy up to your iPhone, give it a good thump and the Melon Meter (; $1.99) will let you know if it is ready to eat.  Another called Harvest (;  $1.99) will answer questions about how to select the best in-season vegetables and fruit while the free app Locavore ( offers users customizable daily updates on the availability of favorite foods. 

I’m a little late to the party when it comes to technology.  I’ve yet to buy a smart phone so I have no apps.  What I do have, however, is an appreciation for nature and sensitivity to the world outside my door.  

It doesn’t matter if a gathering of crows or an app leads the way.  The discovery of unexpected bounty is always a welcome turn of events.  

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