Simple pleasures. I suppose it is a consequence of aging, and the ability to find pleasure sitting in one place for long periods of time and letting your eyes and mind be entertained by the small feathered creatures that fill your yard. Personally, I find it’s almost hypnotic to watch the flittering, skittering movement of birds as they land on the ground and pick through all the wild bird seeds tossed out from the feeders up above.
What better activity on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, then to pull up a chair next to the sliding glass door, with a cup of hot tea in hand and observe the non-stop action at the bird feeders. We have put up an assortment of styles dispensing sunflower seeds, thistle seed and suet (some store bought, some handmade). We have taken down our gigantic feeder, which held 100 lbs of seed, because it became a too popular as a squirrel diner.
So what was coming to our feeders on the first day of March? Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and best of all, Pine Grosbeaks.
Hanging from the branches of a maple tree right next to our deck are 3 suet ‘cages’ and this is where two little Red-breasted Nuthatches vie for the best position. They nimbly go up, down and around the square which holds a shrinking block of suet mixed with corn and seeds.
Feeding mostly on the ground beneath the platform feeder are the mild mannered Mourning Doves. They pick
through the shells that litter the snow and apparently find tidbits and morsels of different kinds of birdseed. Suddenly they all leap into the air and fly away. Why these birds suddenly lift off en masse and then resettle moments later remains a mystery. I’m always looking for some sort of aerial predator, but never see one. The Chickadees are less easily frightened. They make regular sorties to the various hanging feeders, chipping in avian conversation that I find quite endearing.
The Blue Jays have been numerous this winter. They tend to arrive early in the morning and voraciously attack the seeds on the platform feeder that sits on top of a metal pole. My husband often waits until they are less evident before he goes out and restocks the feeder for the smaller, less aggressive birds.
Most of the suet feeders are small, square metal cages, that easily hold the prepackaged suet blocks, but we also use a homemade feeder that is an eight inch long branch with holes drilled in the side. It hangs vertically from a branch of a maple tree. We stuff melted suet and/or peanut butter into the round holes, then sit back and watch as the birds discover this new source of energy packed food. The Blue Jays grab chunks and stuff them into their gular pouch until it bulges and then they fly off to deposit the contents in some safe hiding spot. Chickadees sneak in for quick snacks, and woodpeckers grab a hold of the branch and eat at their leisure.
When the Pileated Woodpecker arrives; that flame crowned monarch of the forest – my attention is completely focused on this magnificent bird. He swoops up to the red pine with the suet cage hanging on its side and pokes his powerful beak into the spaces, delicately picking out bits and pieces. From there he performs a graceful curtsy of flight to the dead stump of a tree and probes the rotting heartwood for insect larvae. His last stop is the deteriorating aspen, where he cocks his head from side to side examining potential soft spots. Soon he is chipping away layers of bark and deepening excavations started on a previous visit, all the while using his long, curled tongue to extricate tidbits of protein rich insects.
Yes, I could spend hours in this form of feathered meditation and I would recommend it to anyone who is finding it hard to let go of stressful thoughts or situations. The birds live in much more perilous conditions than any of us, yet they go about their day with a single minded focus on each activity and manage to keep up a constant cheerful chatter the whole time. Good role models for us all.
By Kate Crowley