Thursday, May 12, 2005

For the Birds

A few weeks ago, inspired by promising hints of spring, I bought an ambitious 20-lb. bag of birdseed for the small bird hopper feeder and several cakes of suet for the basket. I filled the finch tube with nyjer seed I'd stored from last year, plumped up the hopper, and hung the basket from a dowel inserted into porch siding to frustrate the squirrels for entertainment (more about this technique later, somewhere above this post).

From my convenient perch inside the kitchen window, I watched intently for signs that the birds were back. I knew they were somewhere nearby, since they woke me in the morning. But incessant rain and even occasional snowflakes continued to retard seasonal change.

Finally, I noticed that the food level in the finch feeder had dropped somewhat. I hadn't yet caught anyone on either it or the hopper. But the little woodpeckers were starting to fight over the suet basket, and hordes of bright cardinals, so welcome after a long, drab winter, came to fight underneath it for their turn and to investigate whether anything good had been spat out or cast down. Eventually, blue jays hung around bullying and scolding the finches and trying to take advantage of the hopper, which closes under the weight of larger birds. Jays seem very smart, and it's fun to watch them apparently thinking out a strategy and then going after it. One bright jay figured out that if he could just get a grip on the outside edge of the hopper, he could get a mouthful. But his big body couldn't hold on to the metal edge and bend all the way down into the dispenser at the same time. The acrobatic requirements defeated him. Heh-heh-heh.

With progress clearly at hand, it was time to make up some homemade syrup for the hummingbirds. My mother-in-law said, "Well, the hummers come when the flowers come. And the flowers are starting to bloom, so they should be here." I hung the feeder and have waited for days with no results. It came time to clean out and replace the syrup.

I can't remember when they showed up last year; besides, I didn't try setting out a hummingbird feeder until well into the summer. But this morning I watched finches, woodpeckers, titmice and cardinals. The wind blew the chimes on the porch and blinding sun streamed through the picture windows all across the back of the family room. I was trying to spot a nest in the maple that my smaller son had pointed out to me yesterday. Suddenly I heard a "whack" on one of the windows, and looked up immediately to see a dazed green-headed hummer whiz off and down toward the back yard. I jumped to the window to verify whether or not he had been killed, but couldn't find a trace of him.No body on the driveway or in the planters. Couldn't tell about the groundcover.

The feeder level hasn't gone down yet; it's not even attracting the bees or wasps--too cold. But, they're baaaack!


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