The High Price of Progress

| 7/22/2016 10:30:00 AM

Tags: Progress, Development, Habitat, Wildlife, Suburban Construction, Displacement, Andrew Weidman, Pennsylvania,

Andrew WeidmanCardinal

Major changes are happening in our neighborhood, changes that will affect the landscape for some time to come.

My house, my entire street in fact, is built on land once lined with Christmas trees. Blue spruce and white pines once grew rank and file on every property. Lone sentinels remain here and there, guarding lawns throughout the neighborhood. A few lots remain filled with trees, though most of them now grow neglected and thicketed, returning to the Earth.


Our property abutted one of these lots, the spruce lot, for the last two decades. We’ve enjoyed the benefits of these now-overgrown evergreens and the ash, mulberries and black walnuts filling in between them. They blocked the afternoon sun, bringing welcome relief on dog day evenings; and blocked the wind, sheltering us from dead-of-winter blizzards. Our favorite benefit, however, was the privacy those trees afforded us, hiding our entire backyard, and even the side of the house, from the road.

Those were the obvious benefits. Less obvious were the joys of the residents making their homes in the deep undergrowth: chickadees and cardinals, finches, wrens and juncos, woodpeckers, flickers and creepers, even blue jays and grackles would jockey and hustle for a meal at our birdfeeders. In the spring, when the grackle rookery was in full swing, the parent birds could empty the suet feeder in a day. Before long, the birdfeeders would occasionally earn their names in a more gruesome fashion, providing the hawks, both red-tailed and Cooper’s, with a quick meal, evidenced by clusters of small feathers here and there in the yard. And every summer, a hummingbird would grace our butterfly bushes; I think she makes her home in a nearby Mimosa tree.

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