[Guest post by Michelle Potter, the Sage Butterfly]
In the spring, many songbirds search out areas in my backyard and the adjacent woods for nests and laying eggs. Sometimes they find a spot in a fir tree or underneath the deck stairs. This spring an American Robin selected an arbor in my side yard covered in Carolina jessamine vine. It was an excellent spot that provided shelter and protection from predators.
I watched her as she began building her nest in the cross branches of the vine. Each time I would walk under the arbor, she would fly away, giving a short grunt as she left. A short time later, she had laid three beautiful blue eggs. I was able to see them when she left the nest for short periods. I was thrilled to have her nearby so I could observe the nest and the nestlings.
Last year, a robin built a nest under our deck, but the eggs were taken by some predator or crow. I have observed many nests of other bird species over the years, watching the nestlings grow to fledge. I was hoping I could watch the robin’s nest in the same way.
After some time, the robin—I called her Sadie–had become quite nonchalant about my passing under the arbor. She would sit with her eggs and even allow me to stop and watch her. She remained on the eggs most of the day except for those short periods when she would leave for a few moments to get a bite to eat. We were becoming accustomed to each other, she and I, and I was filled with anticipation to observe her and her young as they grew and fledged.
A week later, I saw something hanging from the arbor. At first I thought it was the female landing on the nest, but it did not move. As I moved closer to it, I recognized the female. She was hanging from the arbor by turf netting. It seems she had gotten caught and had struggled to get free to no avail. I cut her free and checked to see if there was any sign of life. There was none.
I wished I had seen her earlier when she was struggling. I could have set her free, and she could have continued nesting. I do not know where she found the netting, but it was around her neck with some of it hanging down her body. The piece hanging down her body had gotten caught on a branch of the Carolina jessamine vine.
Turf netting is used to encourage the production of rolled turf for easy harvesting. Our house is eight years old, and the sod was laid with this plastic turf netting. When I dig a hole in the sod, I often come across the netting. We cut a lot of it away as we see it loose in areas because we worry about the wildlife. A few years ago, I found a box turtle struggling to walk away but its foot was caught in the netting, and I cut it free.
Turf netting traps birds, snakes, turtles, frogs and other wildlife. It can be deadly.
Some companies have decided to find alternative methods of growing sod without netting.
Other companies have developed biodegradable turf netting that degrades over time after sod application.
I doubt we will ever use sod as we have been landscaping to reduce the lawn, but if we do we will either sow seed or try to find sod with biodegradable netting. It is sad and disappointing to see animals struggle or die senselessly.
For now, the robin’s nest lays empty and will disintegrate in time. I look out over the yard, and I see many robins hunting on the ground. They hop every few inches, tilt their heads, and grab a worm.
Although I miss the robin I so fondly named, Sadie, I see that life moves on. For many days afterward, I wished and hoped that I could have found her before the struggle was too much for her. Although death is a part of life, I am always saddened by its occurrence—especially when it seems there could have been a different outcome. Goodbye, Sadie.
Michelle A. Potter has been gardening for over 25 years and is the author of The Complete SAVing Source Catalog: A Guide to Saving the Earth and Money. She finds a respite in her garden and in the nature around her and writes a blog, The Sage Butterfly.
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