Ann Burnside Love, a writer whose house is "spotted" from the droppings of millions of blackbirds that visit Graceham each September, called the birds "the most beautiful sight I've ever seen."
But she - and most of the other witnesses that testified before the Senate Economic Affairs Committee here today - ended up by urging the state to take action to end the blackbirds' annual pilgrimmage, including killing them if necessary.
Farmers, orchardists, and some ornithologists and conservationists called for passage of legislation that would permit the state secretary of agriculture to control certain"nuisance" birds, including blackbirds and at least four other species, by whatever means he and a citizensadvisory committee recommended.
The birds had their defenders, however, including Mrs. T. Hughlett Henry Jr., of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, who said that while she sympathized with the plight of the Graceham residents, the proposed solution is too loosely drawn.
"It offers no specific protection for the many thousands of other birds" who might be destroyed in the process of any mass eradication program, she said.
The birds - including starlings and grackles as well as blackbirds - first took a fancy to the tiny Fredercil County hamlet in the fall of 1973, roosting each evening in a 60-acre stand of white pine trees.
Each September since then, despite efforts to scare them off, large numbers of the birds have returned, forcing residents to keep their children indoors to avoid being splattered and coming in contact with a disease sometimes present in the droppings.
Sen. Harry J. McGuirk (D-Baltimore), the committee chairman, soberly wondered if "anyone ever studied the love style of blackbirds. Maybe a pill . . ."
Agriculture Secretary Young D. Hance, who would be charged with solving the dilemma, said "nothing here suggests wiping out the blackbird and other nuisance birds." The bill would provide the authority needed "to control the population so that is is manageable," he said.
Hance said that while nuisance birds "eat harmful insect, the crops and food they destroy far exceeds what insects are eaten."
In addition to blackbirds, the list includes the commongrackle, brownheaded cowbird, starling monk parakeet and other exotic species that hance might determine to be a menace.
Roger Waldman of the Chespeake Audubon Society asked Hance to "explore all means to save the birds," including trying to scare them off, spraying them, cutting down trees and planting crops at different times.
Edgar G. Emrich, whose 60-acre pine tree farm was the roosting spot for the 1974 invasion that attracted world-wide attention, said the on-slaught left much of his farm "perfectly valueless."
His stand of 60,000 trees were 16 years old, about half-way to maturity, when the birds darkened the sky around his house and farm in September, 1974. After they flew off the next January, Emrich had to cut down 12,000 trees, and many of the others were severely damaged. The birds left a ground cover of droppings 6 inches deep, he said.
Emrich, his wife Rachel and their son Charles got used to the all-night chattering, "but we never got used to the smell," he said in an interview after today's hearing.
He agreed with Love that "it's beautiful. They fly a pattern in the sky as far the eye can see, half a mile wide and so thick that one shotgun blast got 14 of them."
After watching the sight for 1 1/2 hours, twice a day, for four months, it lost its beauty for Emerich and his neighbors, whose corn and wheat fields became feeding stations during the day.
The birds were what Graceham residents came to call the first wave of three invasions, followed rapidly by sightseers and the news media, "and we're not sure which was the worst," he reflected.
As for McGuirk's hope for a birth control pill, Emrich, who has become an amateur authority on the habits of blackbirds, thinks is it too late for that.
"All of these birds - 2 million to 10 million - are the result of importing four pair from England in the early 1900's," said Emerich. Any effort short of destroying them, he predicted, wouldbe "an exercise in futility."