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Work Out - An entryway mystery

By Nancy Leasman

I think I’ve solved a minor mystery. I couldn’t have done it without the experience of working outdoors and learning about the environment in which I work.

The mystery was concerning what had made a mess in our entryway. There are only two of us living here and neither claimed responsibility for the red splotches on the white floor, on the windowsill and sliding down the wall.

We feed a stray cat in the 4 x 8 foot entryway. There’s a food bowl and a water bowl. There’s also a plant stand and a large pot with petunias and calibrachoa. Wasps persist in working on a nest on the ceiling on the southeast corner. Other than that, there are two windows and an open arch looking over the front steps.

Because we feed the stray cat, Shadow, when she shows up, I’m used to looking out for her. I knew the red splotches were new because I so frequently check for Shadow. My first concern was for her. Had something attacked her? Had some other wild animal come into the entry and done what? Thrown-up? But it’s not likely that it would have actually gone up and landed on the window sill. The splotches on the floor look like they had landed as plops, with small coffee-ground like sediment. And while they were red, they didn’t look like blood.

I took some water and a scrub brush and cleaned up the mess. However whatever it was left pink/orange stains.

I see some of you in the back there, waving your hands and saying, “I know, I know!”

But I didn’t know. And it bothered me.

We headed for the Cities the next day and I spent miles and miles thinking about the mysterious red/orange stains in the entryway. I also thought about the large flock of young robins I had seen in back yard, garden, and front yard. Then things gradually came together.

I can’t be sure but I think I figured it out. It seems to me that older robins know what foods are most suited to their systems and young robins maybe take a little while to figure it out. Of course young robins don’t know that the buckthorn berries they eat will shoot through their digestive tracts like heavy rain in a downspout. And as much as I hate to think that a fruiting buckthorn is living somewhere close by, I think that’s what happened. A young robin unfamiliar with both the laxative effect of buckthorn and the configuration of our entryway became briefly trapped just as the berries worked their magic and the results were explosive.

I confirmed the possibility with an online search and found that porches, decks, and cars have all been splotched with purple buckthorn bird poop. The reason that my entryway wasn’t purple is likely that the berries weren’t quite ripe yet. The young robin didn’t know.

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