Birds and the Natural World

A few weeks ago, in this bleak winter of 2013-2014, the birds returned. I was out gathering some wood to keep my wood stove fed and the temperature in the house tolerable, when I heard them chirping, or better, making the “dee, dee, dee” verbalization characteristic of chickadees. I’m not a birder by nature, but this was a welcome sound.

A chickadee perched on my DIY feeder.

A chickadee perched on my DIY feeder.

Deciding that my newly-arrived guests might be hungry due to the tough winter, I made a note to pick up bird seed on a trip through Lewiston later in the day. Remembering a prior attempt with birds and feeders 20 years ago–the squirrels made short work of them, chewing through almost anything made of plastic–I decided on DIY feeders, reconstituted from used Poland Spring Water jugs.

We have a fir tree near the house and north, and a pine near the driveway, to the west. These venues were where the chickadees, mysteriously from somewhere, descended and began “dee, dee, dee-ing” for food. I happily obliged.

I say “happily” because the combination of lengthening days with additional sunlight, an increase in some paying freelance activity, and a new routine brought by the rhythm of the birds coming twice a day to visit, has really improved my outlook.

Some seed gets scattered on the ground.

Some seed gets scattered on the ground.

On days when I’m working from home, I usually venture out into the cold around 8:00 or 8:30 to gather my wood for the day. I have started putting out new feed at that time,  filling my portable feeders. Before long, my friends begin arriving. Even with February’s frigid temperatures near or below zero, extending into March, I’ve started staying out and just watching the birds for 10 or 15 minutes.

Of course, watching birds doesn’t pay the bills, so I reluctantly trudge back inside to my inner sanctum, stoke the stove and work on my project that morning. Anticipation builds near the Noon hour; it’s lunchtime for me and Democracy Now–it’s also the time my new friends drop by to eat, too. I’ve been putting on my boots, walking out to the wood pile with the pretext to pick up a few pieces of wood, but it’s mainly to watch the chickadees arrive in groups of 5-10 at a time. They land in the fir tree, and like cars passing through a highway toll booth, take turns landing, grabbing a seed, and flying off to a perch nearby and repeating the routine numerous times.

With daylight now extended into the later afternoon, the chickadees have added a third visit, now coming around 4:00. Of course, the bird seed has brought other visitors–yes, you guessed it–Chip and Dale, the squirrel brothers.

Like their former family members, they’re back to steal the bird seed and even  get into my primitive feeders. I’m actually not opposed to them being around the wood pile; I even set out some seed on the north side (the house being south) of the area where the birds have been arriving; of course, being squirrels, they can’t leave well enough alone. I caught Chip (or was it Dale?) in the fir tree, tipping the homemade feeder and emptying the contents on the ground. This pissed me off. I had shared my seed with them, but they had to get greedy.

My son frowns on Dad blasting away ala Yosemite Sam and firing his .22 caliber at living things. Instead, I gathered my bucket of surplus baseballs stored in the basement from the old days of pitching batting practice to Mark, and I’ve been working on getting my arm in shape–firing fastballs at the squirrels perched on the woodpile. This has added yet another technique that brightens my day and often, makes me laugh. Poor Chip and Dale–they must think I’m a crazy man.

Dale (or is it Chip)?

Dale (or is it Chip)?

I’ll never be mistaken for John James Audubon in my knowledge of birds, but damn; I sure am enjoying my chickadees and am anticipating some of the other species of birds, when they return from wintering south of here.

3 thoughts on “Birds and the Natural World

  1. Jim, the Chickadees don’t leave us, they are tried and true all winter long here in Maine. Guess that’s why they are our state bird. The Jays and Mourning Doves stick around, too.

  2. The squirrels won’t be laughing if you actually catch one with a fastball. I suspect you aren’t trying that hard, though.

    My father used to hang out small log with holes drilled in it for peanut butter, and buy a jug (five gallons or so) of the cheapest stuff he could find at Marden’s. The birds need the fat and get more of it from the peanut butter than the seeds. Squirrels never got into it much, that I recall. His best anti-squirrel device was inverted saucer sled put over the top of the feeder. No matter which way the squirrel went, the feeder went the other. By not overfilling it, the squirrels could get some but not much. The pigeons were the worst for that, using their weight to dump feeders.

    I had four stubborn squirrels in Maryland that would climb my back porch for the easy pickings. Nothing stopped them. I filled the seed with cayenne pepper (birds don’t react to peppers like mammals do), that drove out three squirrels, but the fourth, after shaking its head and sneezing a few times, took a real liking to spiced birdseed. I mounted a saucer sled, inverted, halfway up the pole to the feeder, and then greased it up good. The first squirrel took a flying leap, landed square, and then began pawing frantically like a cartoon character until it slipped over the side. I heard the thump like a bag of flour hitting the ground (my porch was two floors up). I went to check, the squirrel was scampering away with only its pride hurt. They all soon figured out how to land claws out in such a way that they stayed on.

    I’d stick with the fastballs.

  3. Gail, I’m not sure where my birds went in December and January (maybe South Durham), but they weren’t over here on the west side of town. I missed them and glad they are back. As I indicated, I have a lot to learn when it comes to ornithology. They are fun to watch, though.

    LP, the squirrels are pesky and irritating. While I guess they have a right to try to score their fill of bird seed, their audacity of eating the seed I put out and then tipping my little DIY feeder after climbing into the fir tree really got my dander up.

    I’ve been having some close calls with my deliveries and it’s only a matter of time before something bad befalls the Chipster, or his brother, Dale.

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