catbird damage on a ripe strawberryLet’s just go ahead and file this post under “the neighbors must think I’m crazy.” As if they didn’t have enough evidence already (there was that time I washed the inside of my mailbox, for example), yesterday they got to watch me stringing fishing line through my strawberry patch.

This is one of the quirks of a front yard vegetable (and fruit) garden: everything you do is on display.

If you’re a fan of the Outlaw Garden on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ve maybe seen the recent photos of my strawberries. Red, ripe and exceptionally early (thanks, March, for that bizarre heat wave). Also, delicious. At least, the strawberries I’m allowed to eat have been delicious.

You see, the catbirds returned to the garden last week. And, it turns out that catbirds like strawberries too. A lot.

And, unlike me, the catbirds have nothing better to do with their days than to hang out in the garden, eating strawberries. Ok, let’s amend that statement. I may have nothing better to do — eating strawberries all day does sound wonderful — but I definitely have other things I must do. Like walking the dog, who would never understand if I chose strawberries over another stroll through the neighborhood.

So, guarding the strawberries from sunrise to sunset won’t work. Which means I need some strawberry patch defenses.

My mom suggested a scarecrow. Not a typical, dressed-in-overalls scarecrow. But, one of those high-tech, motion-activated, hooked-to-the-hose sprinkler scarecrows. These things actually work really well in the right place. But, I’m not so sure my front path is the right place. I can imagine the conversation now: “I’m so sorry, Mr. Mailman. I know you are soaking wet, and all you did was walk down my front path. But, well, you see, it’s all for the sake of the strawberries…”

Motion-activated scarecrow? Nope. Too unfriendly.

The next attempt — bird netting — failed on aesthetic grounds. I think you’ll agree that it just doesn’t look nice. I’ve talked with local farmers who love the stuff, but they probably aren’t growing their strawberries along their front path.

bird netting may be effective at protecting berries, but it's also unattractive

Ok. The bird netting is out. Too ugly.

But, what about fishing line? It’s mostly invisible, inexpensive, and won’t attack unsuspecting visitors. Would it work? Only one way to find out…

I tried it. I stuck a bunch of sticks in the ground, all around the perimeter of the patch (it’s not very large). Then, I wove fishing line between those sticks, so that it created a little fence, about a foot high. Then, I crisscrossed fishing line above the strawberries. The idea was to make the whole area look like it’s covered in a massive spider web.

Fishing line makes for a nearly invisible barrier around strawberries. But, is it effective?

Will fishing line be enough to keep the catbirds out of the strawberry patch?

The whole process took about thirty minutes.

Did it work? Doesn’t look like it…

Fishing line doesn't seem to deter catbirds at all.

So, now I’m plotting other defenses. The catbirds seem to land nearby and then walk into the strawberry patch. So, maybe a low “fence” of bird netting, combined with the “spider web” of fishing line? Or, maybe I should just buy one of those fake owls. Or, a shot gun.

Kidding about that last idea. For now…

But, really, this can’t go on.

Catbird damage on a pair of beautifully ripe strawberries.

Have you battled with catbirds over your fruit crop? Did you win? If so, would you share your advice in the comment section? Thanks!

[Note: Although it didn’t work here, the fishing line idea isn’t totally crazy. I thought of it because it’s recommended as a way to deter house sparrows from nesting in bluebird boxes. I know it sounds insane, but it worked like a charm when I had a house sparrow problem earlier this spring. I suppose catbirds are simply brighter than house sparrows.]

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