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.
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.
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.
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.