Watching the Feeders

Hairy Woodpecker going for seeds

Hairy Woodpecker going for seeds

Somehow or other I heard about Project Feederwatch this fall. It seemed easy enough–sign up, watch my feeders and surrounding area each week, report what I see. Piece of cake. So I signed up. I watched my feeders and reported what I saw. Sunday and Monday were my days to watch (the project requires two consecutive days each week). I looked forward to getting up Sunday morning and seeing what was out there.

It was a great way to take the time to look outside. I would count all the birds I could see of any species that I could see at any one time. It really was not hard to do. I got pretty excited when I got to report something that wasn’t around previously. Each time I would see American Tree Sparrows and Blue Jays and Chickadees. I often would see Juncos (they liked the morning hours) and a pair of Red Tailed Hawks hung around later in the season. I saw a total of 21 different species from November to April. It was another great way to get to know the place I live a little better.

The thing is, I miss it. Now that spring is here I go out birding. I get to see a much bigger swath of my place. And I see a lot more birds. But those Tree Sparrows? They aren’t around any more. They left the same time the Chipping Sparrows arrived. And I mean exactly. One the Tree Sparrows were there, the next day the Chippers were there. Tree Sparrows were a comfort of sorts–seeing them another day was a sign that one more day was real and full of things to wonder at. I sat at the window with a cup of coffee, comfortable as I watched the birds simply do what they needed to do to survive. I wondered what happened when it got below zero and I wondered where they were when some of them simply didn’t show up. Now I just am lucky to see what I see; amazing but not comforting.

I signed up for next year already. I will need to remember my registration number–not sure how I’ll make that happen. In the meantime I am going to try to see as many bird species as I can in my county this year. I’m aiming for 175. Right now, since January first, I am at 103. A good start.

Hairy Woodpecker in the woods today

Hairy Woodpecker in the woods today

Natural Hierarchy

We have lots of tree sparrows at our house. They come for the food. Under the feeder this morning we had a few pecking away at seeds that had fallen to the snow.

American tree sparrows

American tree sparrows

But then some bigger birds came along and shooed the sparrows away. Whatever. The sparrows will be back. But hey, cardinals! A pair of them! Sweet!

Male and female cardinal

Male and female cardinal

Then the mammals came out. A gray squirrel came along and scared off the cardinals. Too bad. But hey, squirrels are cute.

Gray squirrel takes over the seed zone

Gray squirrel takes over the seed zone

The squirrel, however, decided to leave. The new kid came along and, even though it was not interested in seeds from the feeder, intimidated the little furry-tailed guy a bit too much.

Coyote hunting for mice (or squirrels)

Coyote hunting for mice (or squirrels)

I can hardly wait to see what comes next.

 

Avian Eats

I put up the bird feeders a little late this year.  Usually we get them up right around the time of the ground freezing solid.  Those little flittering creatures must have a harder time finding treats once things freeze up, right?  I know, of course, that this is not really true, but it provides a good reason to get the feeders out.

I managed to get them out last week, before the new year turned.  At least I can say I hung them in December.  I only hung two as the peanut feeder (a wire mesh tube made for nuts) seems to be missing.  Maybe the squirrels broke into the garage and carried it off, hoping to crack its secrets.  Of the two out there now, one contains sunflower seeds and the other contains thistle.

Today the birds finally discovered them.  They were some forlorn food offerings for a few days, but now the chickadees and finches and titmice can once again revel in the easy pickings.  Of course, once the blue jays move, those hogs, we will have to refill more often.  For now, however, we can watch the little dudes hop about in the cold without the bright blue bullies in the cafeteria.

I bought the sunflower seed at the hardware store.  We had the other seed left over from last year (it wasn’t and isn’t as popular, clearly).  I picked up a 25-pound bag and started walking to the counter but then realized that that was, to be kind to myself, stupid.  A 50-pound bag would save money, would last longer, and would mean one fewer trip to the hardware store.  Duh.  So I borrowed a cart and hauled it to the car.

Using the cart didn’t stop by back from aching a few days later.  Maybe it was moving the furniture.  That may have helped.  I think it was taking the foam pad off our bed.  Really, who cares?  The point is that I need to at least be careful when I haul around large bags of avian eats.  While I sit her with my sore back, I look out at the feeders, doing their job of supplying our feathered neighbors with vittles.

Here is to good health as well as to seeing all kinds of interesting antics from our dinosaur progeny in 2009.