I don’t know exactly which cardinal it is, and if I did I might be tempted to shoot him. Cardinals are early risers. They sing with the dawn. Mine’s a night owl. He starts his territorial song marking around 3:30 a.m., or about three hours before sunrise. I wouldn’t mind if he were far away, but he’s right outside my bedroom window, and I know why. My mulberry tree.
It’s a red mulberry I planted just about a decade ago. This time of year it’s heavy with fruit, and my cardinal is staking his claim early. Like bluejays who argue in a forest, all yelling “My tree, my tree, my tree” this early-to-bed early-to-rise cardinal is announcing first dibs on “his” mulberry tree.
Morus rubra. Think of it as large blackberries on a tree, sweeter, and no thorns. To the cardinal, and I’m sure his nearby bride, this is feast time. It’s fast food, gourmet cuisine and good dining all in one. What the cardinal clan doesn’t eat I will be turning to pies. In fact, even the young leaves are edible, cooked, though the berries are so good one rarely ever gets to the leaves.
As you might suspect I started this essay at 03:40 a.m. I’m sure as the season moves on so will he and I’ll be able to get some sleep. Until then there’s only one thing to do: Grab a flash light and go get some breakfast off his tree.