Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

I heard them every morning making those lovely unmistakable cooing sounds. A neighbor once said she thought those were the hoots of owls, but I set her straight. No morning owls here on Freeman Street, just melodic Eurasian collared doves singing sweetly to each other from the moment the sun comes up.

These days I sit by the window drinking my coffee and watching for them. Sometimes they sit on overhead telephone wires looking down at me in the living room and occasionally they fly over the front yard. But they don't stop here much anymore.

I'd like to go outside and explain the reason why I'm not serving them breakfast anymore, but I know how ridiculous that sounds. Besides, they always fly off when I open the door. I'm feeling awful about cutting them off cold turkey like this but I'm sticking to my guns.

Last year when Rick and I left on our epic cruise adventure, I didn't

ask anyone to feed "my" doves while we were away. When we returned home

in October after being gone a month, the doves were nowhere to be

found. Rick assured me they had just flown south for the winter and

would be back, but I knew the prior year they had stayed nearby all

winter as long as I spread the cracked corn and sunflower seeds on the

sidewalk for them every day.

In spurts the doves reappeared this spring and brought their

relatives with them. Over two dozen doves began hanging out at our house

in the morning and returning for an afternoon snack later in the day. I

was delighted to have them back and immediately started pouring nearly

40 pounds of seed a month onto the sidewalk and into feeders. And I

didn't mind.

These doves are beautiful birds with a beautiful love song and a

gentle way about them. It must be a good omen to have them perched in

our trees.

Of course other birds visit besides the doves and so I've filled

many feeders with various seeds to please them. Rain or shine I'd go out

in the morning to replenish the feeders and put water in the bird

baths. I'd sit patiently by the window sometimes with my camera watching

the birds come and go in their skitterish feeding frenzy.

Until two weeks ago.

One afternoon I was just about to open the door and walk out into the

yard when I noticed something at the feeder. I stopped so as not to

disturb it. The bird at the feeder came into focus-it seemed awfully

fat and very dark gray and then I noticed it had a long tail hanging


I screamed for Rick to come and look. He confirmed it was a rat. When

I opened the door to let the dog out to scare it the rat scurried off.

But it wasn't 10 minutes later that I looked up and saw him munching on

sunflower seeds at the feeder again.

With a rat infestation in the neighborhood (Rick says that's an

exaggeration, but how do I know how many rats are out there?) I've

decided I can't risk harboring rodents in epidemic proportions and have

ceased putting out food for the doves or any other birds. The feeders

hang empty. Eventually I will take them down and throw them away. Or, at

the very least, sterilize them and keep them for another time and

place. But I'm pretty sure I won't be filling them up to fatten up the

neighborhood rats any time soon.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.