Stealthy cherry heist brings sweet revenge

Tri-City HeraldJune 20, 2012 

Life is a bowl of cherries. But this summer, it’s for the birds.

We should have seen it coming.

For weeks marauding feathered fiends have been casing our backyard and two cherry trees. A scout or two would hover, eyeing the loot, even boldly sampling a few Bings in broad daylight. Then with disappointment in their beady eyes, the birds would toss the almost ripened fruit aside.

Our damaged goods weren’t ready for a major heist.

But early one summer morning as the dew lay on the ground, the household still fast asleep, the less than covert operation began. Swooping in on dark wings, a cloud of thieving starlings made a quick getaway with our ripened cherries.

In the wake of their getaway, one backyard tree stood naked, stripped of its lush fruit while another quivered in the breeze -- waiting.

“I’ve got to find some way to scare off those darn starlings,” my husband complained as he stared out the kitchen window. “At this rate, we won’t have a single cherry left.”

With 9,000 acres of sweet cherry trees in our Benton and Franklin counties, we could only bitterly shake our heads and question why they’d chosen to dine on our two trees. However, it might be because ours are easy picking.

Orchardists have several ways to frighten the would-be robbers including packing scare-guns. According to an online news item an online news item, the cartridge shoots into the air and whistles like a Fourth of July firecracker. Unfortunately, if we wanted to acquire this item, we’d have to apply for a license. By then the birds would have made a getaway with our cherry harvest.

So we decided to research online advice that suggested hanging pie plates, old CD’s or a plastic owl among the cherry tree branches. Since we’re on a diet and couldn’t eat a dozen pies -- at least not in one sitting -- we considered the CDs. But after looking through our collection, we couldn’t bear the thought of Elvis or The Beach Boys possibly covered in such disgrace.

That left us with a long forgotten dusty owl brought from storage to roost in the limbs of our sweet cherry tree. Yet within a couple of days, it was obvious the sneaky birds didn’t give a hoot.

Consequently, we’ve taken drastic measures.

As I write this blog in the shade of our Royal Anne, I feel quite princess-like with a bowl of cherries at my side -- and birds on the fly.

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