Dear Joan: I had some work done this past summer, including stripping several inches of weedy dirt from my parking strip, replacing it with mixed-texture mulch, setting pavers and planting a ground cover.

I’ve seen crows and small brown birds digging and pecking through the dirt. I haven’t seen any larger animals, but I don’t get up at night to check. The crows are capable of making quite a mess, including pulling up the ground cover, digging holes deep enough to undermine the pavers, and exposing the top roots of the street tree.

Are they doing me a favor by eating bugs and leftover seeds from the weeds? Will they go away after a while or do I have to do something to stop this?

— Louise Specht, Berkeley

Dear Louise: I’m not sure how much good the crows are doing, but generally having birds in your garden is a good thing.

While bees rightly get most of the credit for pollinating plants, a number of nectar- and seed-feeding birds help in that regard, too. Birds also can help keep the number of insects down in a garden, and are good at helping to control weeds.

The best birds for cleaning up weed seeds are finches, towhees and sparrows, and the little brown birds you see likely are among them. In our area, hummingbirds and orioles help the most with plant pollination. For insect control, thank bluebirds, chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches, orioles and sparrows.

When you have birds in your garden, you can reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, which makes the yard a healthier place.

Crows eat almost anything, including insects, seeds and plants, but they can be destructive. Unfortunately, there are not many ways to exclude the crows yet keep the other birds, but you can try hanging a fake crow in a tree or area near your drive. Do it at night and don’t let the crows see you. For some reason, these otherwise brilliant birds will believe something horrible has happened to their brethren and they will begin avoiding the area.

Dear Joan: I recently heard the most distressing story from an animal-loving, elderly friend — he is 80.

On March 28, 2019, he was in downtown San Leandro with his 10-year-old beloved cat, “Zoey,” who had been experiencing some recent health issues and was on the way to an ultrasound appointment.

When his car got a flat tire, he pulled into an AT&T store parking lot and went inside to phone for road service. While he was calling, his car, with Zoey in her carrier in the backseat, was stolen.

The vehicle was recovered, partially stripped, in San Pablo several days later but Zoey wasn’t in it.

He has searched exhaustively for her, placing a lost ad in the paper each and every week since this happened. He only wants her back, no questions asked, and has offered a reward.

So many people read your column I am hoping there is something you can do. Someone has to know something.

Zoey is petite calico-tortie mix. She is microchipped.

— Dena Cremen, Bay Area

Dear Dena: That’s a long time to search, but maybe my readers can help. If so, please contact me and I’ll forward the information to Dena and Zoey’s owner.

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