Birdman ruffles feathers again in N. Baltimore

Conflict: After spats with his Hampden neighbors and brushes with the law, he continues to try to feed animals in his back yard.

May 30, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Emmett E. Molloy, whose brushes with the law have become a cause celebre or an outrage, depending on whom you talk to, has not given up the fight to feed the birds and other creatures in his Hampden back yard.

After eight years of wrangling with neighbors in the 800 block of W. 37th St., Molloy paid a $100 fine last month and promised to comply with a Baltimore District Court judge's order to quit enticing animals with his backyard fare.

Before the judge's decision, Molloy, 59, had maintained that feeding creatures on his private property was his constitutional right. But some in this part of North Baltimore, where people keep a sharp eye on each other's porches, pets and back yards, had complained that his activities had attracted rodents to the alley.

They had hoped that Molloy's second trip to court -- his appearance before a judge last month was for defying a previous order -- would end the conflict.

"We're fed up with garbage and health hazards, and we have a rat problem," said a neighbor who lives several doors up the street. "Housing did their job."

In spite of the city housing authority charges against him and the court's cease-and-desist order, Molloy is pursuing another way to bring back his animal friends: He has planted a garden.

"So we'll do it this way," he said, "indigenous wildflowers. If they're going to prevent me from having a bird-feed, then I'll plant the actual plants. I'll grow flowers, and birds can eat the seeds."

It's something that he can sustain in his back yard, and Molloy notes that he is not technically feeding the birds and other animals.

Neighbors say it is too early to tell whether the garden could become a nuisance.

His attorney in the court case, Jamie Marthaler, said, "The judge didn't tell him not to garden."

The vivid colors of Molloy's small garden stand out from a distance and could work well as an invitation to birds.

Molloy recites the wildflower names as if they are new friends: phlox, blue columbine, honeysuckle, strawberries, bleeding hearts and speedwell.

"I just like to watch things grow," he said. One of his favorite sights, Molloy said, is watching a mother bird teach baby birds to eat.

He does not discriminate, welcoming ragged, bare-boned squirrels and "refugee cats."

Molloy, who lives alone in a house with Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish furniture, is a rehabilitation counselor.

An expert on Social Security, worker's compensation and disability law, he evaluates whether injured people may re-enter the work force, he said.

"But I'm not a rehab counselor for animals," he said, although he has been known to nurse a pigeon with an injured wing.

Sometimes, animals seem like his friends.

"Nobody [else] can stand me," he joked.

He knows which birds he hopes to see again soon: cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, finches, robins, doves and starlings.

"And one crow I named Edgar," Molloy said.

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