Thursday, March 20, 2008

Feathered Friends

(Originally posted December 4, 2007)

Good morning, everyone. I’ve been thinking for the past several days that I needed to get a new blog posted, but have had a bit of writer’s block. The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy and with Christmas now nearly upon us that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. Sitting here early this morning, though, the morning feeding outside my window suddenly started and it gave me an idea–write about the birds!

A couple of years ago at the garden center, we had these really neat little clear acrylic birdfeeders that attach to directly to your window with suction cups. I have two of them on the double window over my kitchen sink and they have provided me with hours of entertainment. I keep one filled with sunflower chips and the other filled with safflower seed. Supposedly, the squirrels don’t care for safflower, but my squirrels apparently didn’t get that memo! I stand at the sink early in the morning doing up any dishes that may have accumulated and watching the birds as they fly in to feed. I’ve learned that as long as I keep the lights off they can’t see in, and even though I may be moving around a little it doesn’t bother the birds in the least. They come and go as if I wasn’t there at all and many times they’ll sit and peck for food for several seconds before the next one flies in and takes his or her turn.

I’ve been amazed at the great diversity of birds that have come to my feeders. I’m fortunate that even though I live in town I have a 5-acre lot with plenty of nice shade trees and a good bit of “scrub” and undergrowth around the edges that makes for fantastic bird habitat. I’ve cleaned the majority of it up, but have left Mother Nature alone in several places so that the birds and other little critters have plenty of places to roost, nest and hide. Just this year I have already seen many of the common species, such as the cute little black-capped chickadees, titmice, a few juncos one really cold morning, a huge number of cardinals, bluejays, a wren and others. But I also have some more interesting visitors from time to time, like the adorable little downy woodpecker who absolutely LOVES the sunflower chips that I put in one of the window feeders. Sometimes he’ll hang around for 2-3 minutes at a time, perched right there on the window, without blinking an eye. It’s so fascinating to watch him up close. And then there’s the flicker, who’s so big that you can see the feeder shake when he lands with a distinct “thud”. He has to hang off of the side of the feeder and stick his head up over the side, but I could watch him for hours. He has a tongue that “flickers” in and out with amazing speed, scooping up sunflower chips with every little motion.

I’ve also already spotted the rufus-sided towhee that comes around each winter, the indigo bunting that follows me around on the lawnmower in the summer scooping up insects behind me as I mow and the big pileated woodpecker who has pulled the little window feeders right off of the window on more than one occasion because of his massive size. He still comes to the window and feeds, though! Now that’s a sight! A huge, foot-and-a-half long woodpecker hanging from a tiny little feeder attached to my kitchen window by three suction cups! Who needs to pay nine bucks for a movie when you can just stay home and watch the birds?

I also scatter some mixed birdseed on the ground and in an old, cracked terra cotta saucer that won’t hold water anymore for the ground feeders (including a sizable coon who comes ’round about 10 o’clock each night). The cardinals and bluejays both like to peck around on the ground, as do the sparrows and the house finches. But I think my favorite of the ground feeders has to be the enormous number of mourning doves who have discovered my generosity. There have been mornings where I’ve had close to 30 mourning doves at one time, mingling with all the rest of the birds. It’s not unusual, once winter really sets in, for me to have 50-60 birds or more all flying in and out or pecking around on the ground at the same time. It has become one of my favorite pasttimes to stand at the window and watch them as they go about their pecking and scratching. It reminds me of my childhood when we used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen in front of the fireplace and watch the birds feed outside of her kitchen window. And now my own little feathered friends take me back to those fond memories each and every day.

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