By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

This is the first summer at my new house, and I’ve been gardening. So far it’s going well and has been an enjoyable endeavor. The backyard feels like an oasis, and my dog Finn and I have been spending quite a bit of time out there. Mostly he poops or naps, and I read or putter around watering flowers. Sometimes, my guinea pig Joey eats the grass. It’s a good system.

Yesterday, however, the garden came under attack. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I noticed a robin flying straight at the garden bed. Being a relatively inexperienced gardener I thought, “That’s weird.”

Just as I was wondering if it could be lost, the bird dipped its beak into my strawberry plant, and came up with a rather large-in-comparison-to its-body-size green berry. I watched as it tipped its head up, and ate the berry in one gulp. Actually, it was kind of impressive.

My first thought was, “Well, everybody has to eat.” My second thought was, “Back up off my berries, bird!”

I went outside, thinking the act of opening the door would shoo away the robin. Unfazed, it perched by the strawberry plant, and stared me down. I took a few steps toward the bird, shouting something like, “Please move it along,” except riddled with expletives.

The bird flew a short distance away and perched on my fence, clearly waiting for me to go back inside so it could resume the berry feast. “I see you!” I advised the robin. The bird stared impassively back. In retrospect, my neighbors might wonder about my sanity. The bird eventually flew to a neighboring rooftop, the cheeky bugger.

I decided to attempt bribery. I just happened to have birdseed formed into the shape of a bell in the garage and by the time I made it back outside to hang up the bird bell, the robin had returned to my yard. Despite my very clear gestures towards the birdseed, the robin did not appear interested. The bird bell will probably just attract more birds undesirably close to my strawberry plants.

Of course I kept my mom apprised of the situation in real time. “He’s back!” I texted. Because she has my back, Mom started doing some online research. It turns out there are all sorts of products available for those who find themselves at an impasse with birds.

“It’s a fake scary looking bird that emits hawk screeches at incoming birds,” Mom said. “Awesome right? There are certainly lower tech options. Mylar balloons painted with scary faces…”

A quick Amazon search revealed other fascinating options including an owl statue with a solar-powered rotating head, rubber snakes, and balloons that look like brightly colored eyeballs.

I haven’t yet reached the point of painting faces on balloons, but feel that if I do, it might be time to consider another hobby aside from gardening.

Jamie Balke has mostly resigned herself to sharing strawberries with the robin.