I wanted bird feeding to be nothing but fun. But, I’m learning that like most things in life, responsibility comes along with the fun. I’ve been so-so about cleaning my feeders, but I got a real wake-up call this week. A House Finch with eye disease showed up in my backyard a couple of days ago. I have spent hours watching and photographing the bird, getting someone to confirm the diagnosis, then seeking help about what to do. After consulting with several experts, I decided to catch the bird and have her euthanized. Otherwise, she could spread the disease to other birds and/or die a slow death from starvation.
Update as of this morning – I did not see the bird at all yesterday. Don’t know if she has already died, but she didn’t look that sick yet to me. Maybe she just moved on. In any case, it’s killing me to stop feeding since I have dozens of fledgling and juvenile Goldfinches. But I’ve had to take down the feeders for cleaning and I hoped to catch the House Finch before I put them back up. Washing the feeders – first with hot water and soap, then soaking in 10% bleach for 20 minutes, and finally rinsing thoroughly – is taking a long time. I’ve got other things to do. But I’m trying to be a responsible bird feeder. Sometimes being responsible just sucks.
We had our first really cold weather this past weekend and it brought more birds to my yard than any day since I started keeping count at Thanksgiving. On Sunday 14 species, including my first White-throated Sparrows, visited. When I saw the birds foraging in my front yard, I was so glad that I’d left the leaves on the garden. I love it when being lazy reaps such wonderful rewards.
The squirrels were unusually active, too. My frustration gave way to laughter as I watched one squirrel hang upside down and reach as far as he could to get the suet. I worried that he would eat it all, but he left plenty for the Carolina Wren and Downy Woodpecker who share his good taste. I wondered if it was a message about life – don’t worry, there’s enough for everyone.
It’s interesting how one thing leads to another. I have a platform feeder in my front yard and this goal started simply as an attempt to put food in that feeder more often. Well, I did and I enjoyed seeing more birds. This year it led to joining my local Audubon Society which led to learning more and meeting new people. My son and his wife got interested in birding about the same time on their own. When we discovered this shared interest, we started doing birding activities together so I’ve had a chance to spend more time with them.
But best of all is how watching the birds brings me into the present moment. When I’m trying to identify a bird, or just observing its behavior, I’m there. No thoughts of work on Monday or problems or stress – I’m just there watching the bird.
Technically, I’ve completed this goal, but I’m leaving it on my active list just for fun.
Saturday I bought 2 new bird feeders for my deck. I was a little concerned since there aren’t any trees or cover for maybe 30-40 feet. Nothing the first day. I put some aluminum foil on the feeders to draw attention and within 2 hours the first Carolina Chickadee came to check it out. Today I had Cardinals, the Chickadees again, Goldfinches and a Tufted Titmouse. I’m happy. It sure is relaxing to come home after work and see the birds.
I’m been pretty good this spring about keeping the feeders full. And I have been rewarded with birds almost constantly in my garden. The Cardinals are frequent visitors. There are at least 2 pairs and I think they have nests close-by. I also have Goldfinches, Chickadees, and many others. I’ve started keeping the binoculars on a table in the living room so that I can grab them for a quick bird watch at the window. It’s fun and so relaxing.
Freezing rain and/or snow was forecast for today, so I put sunflower seeds in the platform feeder this morning. I wanted the birds to get some energy to keep warm. I was concerned, though, that I’d waited too late.
Well, I just got a wonderful surprise. I looked out my living room window and saw birds at the feeder in the gently falling snow. This morning’s visitors included male and female Cardinals, Goldfinches, a Carolina Chickadee, and a couple of other small birds. It was wonderful just standing and watching them.
There were many birdie guests at my feeders for Christmas. I wanted to positively identify more of them, but I’m sure of the male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was awesome! Red seemed to be the color for Christmas. Cardinals and something with a rose belly (not a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, though) also visited. My Gold Finches and Carolina Chickadees were here, too, along with the ever-present Mourning Doves.
The thistle feeders were full, but I thought the food was stale. Last weekend I discovered that the food was worse than stale – it was rotten and disgusting. I washed the feeders really well with hot soapy water, dried them in the sun, and refilled with fresh seed. I was disappointed all week that I didn’t see any birds. Then late this afternoon I was sitting on the bench in the garden when I saw goldfinches at one of the feeders. Then I realized that a goldfinch party was going on in the dogwood tree above the feeder. They are so pretty and I feel kind of honored that the birds like my yard. I’ve got to start sitting on that bench on a regular basis.