Naturalist, Photos

The Birdfeeder News

You can see the alley, and beyond it the bus corral.
You can see the alley, and beyond it the bus corral.

I got up this morning and realized that I could hear the birds singing loudly, but the little feeder outside my office window was empty. I slid on unlaced boots, grabbed a suet bloc and the bag of seed, and slipped quietly out into the gray morning light. It’s not going to be a warm day, nor a sunny one. I have a long list of work that needs to be done, deadlines tomorrow, and the next day, and exams this week, and… hungry little birds. I’ll stop feeding them in a couple of weeks, when Spring makes itself felt. They don’t need my offerings, even now, it just makes it easier for them.

The hanging feeder Dad gave me for Christmas.
The hanging feeder Dad gave me for Christmas.

The dog, curious about what I was up to, insisted on following me out, then lost interest when she saw me head to the feeders. I think she’s finally learned that the little things with feathers aren’t catchable. I filled up the hanging feeder, tossing the seeds the little birds won’t eat into the hedgerow. I know what they like, next time I buy seed I’ll get a bag of just that – sunflower seeds, mostly – and skip the milled and cracked corn they won’t touch. The ground birds eat it. The suet block is easy to pop into the cage. I knew the other day I’d won the First Reader over to the birds – he stopped in Lowe’s and picked up a big block of mealworms, saying maybe we should get that one. “Feeds woodpeckers and insect eaters,” he read.

The big woodpecker - a Flicker.
The big woodpecker – a Flicker.

I pointed out that it was too big for my little suet cage, and that it was $10 for the mealworm block he was holding. I feed cheaply because the Starlings come in masses and gobble it all in hours some days. But he’d been very resistant to feeding the birds at all “they’ll poop all over the cars” when I first hung the feeder.

Mr Cardinal by the wild onions.
Mr Cardinal by the wild onions.

Now we both sit by the office window and watch the feathered frolics, the shenanigans of the chickadees and the cheerful quarrels of the sparrows. I name them, a shameless anthropomorphization. Mr and Mrs Cardinal, Mr and Mrs Downy. The little brown birds come and go quietly, and I stalk them through the glass, a bird paparazzi with my long lens and fast shutter clicking.

Female Cardinal in wind
Mrs Cardinal on a windy day not long ago.

Within an hour of putting the seed out, they had returned en masse. I even saw the squirrel briefly, but he looked nervous and fled. We have a young Cooper’s Hawk hunting the area, I got photos of him neatly eating on a log near my feeders recently. The squirrels, to my delight, are smart enough to take the hint and stay away. My feeders are in a messy hedgerow, so I don’t worry about the Hawk using them as a feeding station. He hasn’t got room to stoop on the birds as long as they stay in the bushes.

A juvenile Cooper's Hawk, he's been feeding on a starling.
A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, he’s been feeding on a starling.

I’ve been fascinated, in the months of feeding the birds, at how many species we see. We live in town, and the feeders are mere feet from the house, and on the other side, from an alley that gets regular foot traffic. But the list of sightings keeps growing, with a new one in this morning, a gray bird that I recognized as a titmouse. I look forward to the next new visitor to my feeders!

Tufted Titmouse, looking meek with his crest deflated.
Tufted Titmouse, looking meek with his crest deflated.
Mr. Downy, with his little red cap cocked jauntily to the back of his head. Mrs. Downy has no red on her. The Downy Woodpecker is a small woodpecker.
Mr. Downy, with his little red cap cocked jauntily to the back of his head. Mrs. Downy has no red on her. The Downy Woodpecker is a small woodpecker.

1 thought on “The Birdfeeder News

  1. A bird bath and or a larger pan of water will help keep the birds around all summer.
    A larger rock in the water that protrudes out of the water for a perch should be in the water too.
    Place the bath close enough that when you do the daily changing of the water squirting with a garden hose is all that is needed.
    In the summer when it is hot and dry you might have to fill the bath up a couple of times a day too.

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