Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gone to the Birds

I have been a bird-watcher since I was 19. My first house had a birdfeeder in a tree just outside the dining room window and I started feed the birds, fascinated by the colors and behavior. I didn't know much about birds then, mainly able to identify only cardinals, blue jays and robins.

Then my brother Bill gave me a little book for bird identification. I was hooked. I began putting names to my feathered visitors: purple finches, evening grosbeaks, titmouse, and all the other winter visitors. In summer I quit feeding the birds and so missed seeing the many migrators passing through. And I never, ever saw a hummingbird at that house.

When we moved to West Virginia we had to build our house on the land we'd bought. I remember nearly dropping my end of the big picture window we were putting in when a hummingbird flew right up to it and hovered just inches from my face, which was on the other side of the glass. That first summer of building opened my eyes to the wide variety of birds living in the woods and fields around me. I seldom fed them in those early years because our budget was far too tight to allow for something that seemed unnecessary. Over the years I have fed birds in winter but not until this summer have we maintained feeding through the warm months.

What a reward it has been. Larry is as hooked on the birds now as I am and keeps several feeders filled, including two for hummingbirds. Apparently we have two couples of them nesting nearby; there are constant near-collisions and much scolding as they unwillingly share their feeders.

This week we added a bag of feed for small finches and songbirds and they have repaid us with quite a show. The bag, which we hung on Tuesday, is already almost empty.

We have two other shy visitors that really excited me--the two summer tanagers we spotted in May have stuck around, and I believe they have a nest in the woods behind the chicken house. They stay further away most of the time but do venture in to the feeders occasionally. Catching a photo of them hasn't been easy!

Of course, we get some birds we'd just as soon not encourage. Cowbirds, those parasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and kick out the "real" eggs, are most unwelcome. Doves come in large groups sometimes and hog the feeders. Recently we've had a flock of rusty blackbirds coming to the feeders, again hogging it and keeping the smaller birds away. We have a canned air horn that we use to scare them off, but of course that scares off the little birds too.

If you know of some way to keep these less desirables away, I'd love to hear it. They certainly eat a lot of feed in short order. I am considering just hanging the bags for a week or so to discourage them but hate to also lose the cardinals, woodpeckers and others that like the sunflower seeds.

There is nothing like walking outside in the morning to hear the chorus rising from the woods, or to watch the antics of the birds getting their breakfast. I am glad that we now have time to slow down and enjoy these  winged sharers of our space.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Quinn said...

I used to feed birds year-round, though mostly in winter. But in recent years the bears in this area have become so accustomed to "shopping" at bird feeders, I've had to stop...except for feeding the hummingbirds! I would miss feeding them very much, and so enjoy watching them and hearing them - in fact, I just looked up and saw one right outside the window. :)

Nance said...

I'm a bird watcher. We used to have scarlet tanagers in Missouri. Wow! these birds knock your socks off. My mother told me that her mother 'Byrd' in Wood Co, WV found hummingbird nests. I wish I could! We feed the critters here in Iowa and in northern Mo.

Sue said...

I love birds, but the squirrels always eat their birdseed when I put it out.

So I just hang birdhouses and hope for the best. We are lucky, as they are almost always used!


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