For years I’ve been spreading birdseed on the wide flat rail of our back porch. Often twice a day. In return I’ve been rewarded with the sight of birds landing to eat only a few feet from our windows. No matter what else is going on, there’s something captivating about watching birds. It takes you beyond ordinary fuss to a place of watchful calm. Those are vital interludes in our busy lives.
Then that porch had to be torn down (a Great Thing gone very wrong). When we finally had the new porch up, this time correctly attached to the rest of the house thank you, my beloved spouse didn’t really want bird food and the resulting bird poo all over his newly stained porch rail. We nattered about it as spouses do. I continued to spread birdseed on the rail. He grumbled.
Then my darlings Benjamin and Niki gave me the gift of three coppery bird feeders. They came with decorative brackets so they could be attached to the outside of the porch posts, putting the birds (and their poo) a good eight inches away from the porch rails. A lovely solution. Spouse man and I were both thrilled.
We filled each feeder with different food. Black oil sunflower seed, a finch mix, and a premium nut and seed mix. Then we waited. My old buddies the blue jays and cardinals and sparrows didn’t come back for a few days. And then they returned. Gradually more and more birds showed up. Every day we see birds that didn’t alight on the porch rail but now happily perch on the feeders. We get to see all sorts of species up close like the house finch, cowbird, tufted titmouse, goldfinch, flicker, chickadee, and the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeak.
It’s interesting to watch the way they wait for a turn at the feeders. We can see them on the roof of the small barn near the house, in the magnolia and sycamore and ash trees, on bean poles and rose trellises. Some are so bold as to wait on the porch, perching on the chairs or hopping along the floor picking up scattered seed. I’ve tried in vain to take pictures of them, sometimes clustered in fours and fives at a feeder. No luck. Through the window the camera mostly focuses on the screen and even when I wait silently on the porch only the blue jays are bold enough to grab seeds in my presence.
Because we’re more tuned to the birds on our porch, I think we pay closer attention to the great blue herons standing by our pond in the morning and the barn swallows swooping over it in the evening. We notice the calls of owls and hawks. We appreciate the family of buzzards that lift together over the nearby fields.
Morning is the biggest bird traffic jam on the porch but it remains a flurry of activity all day. We must have ten times the birds we had before when I only scattered seed on the rail. To keep up we’re ordering birdseed in 50 pound sacks. Our kids tease us about creating a dependency.
There’s a consequence. Now our newly built porch is festooned with bird poo. Spouse man grumbles as he does what he can to keep it clean. More birds may result in more bird poo but that’s a small inconvenience. More birds mean more beauty and wonder. More chances to still oneself and look, simply look. And then look some more.
We’re with you. Taking the time to watch birds is rejuvenating. I like the way you put it, “vital interludes in our busy lives.”
We have a bird feeder outside a window of our bedroom and we love seeing the birds that gather there. The goldfinches are especially beautiful. (We’re not so crazy about the squirrel that shimmies up the feeder and steals the food while dangling precipitously over the edge, however.) This year some of the sunflower seeds dropped to the ground, were no doubt fertilized by the birds at the feeder, and have grown into large beautiful sunflower plants. They’re much prettier and healthier looking than the ones I planted in the garden.
We have volunteer sunflowers from birdseed too, a lovely side effect.
I know most people don’t appreciate squirrels eating birdseed but I don’t see their actions as “stealing.” Their playfulness and agility lighten my heart. At our last home we set up a homemade squirrel feeder, pretty much a post in the ground with nails sticking out. We’d stick feed corn on the nails for them through the winter months and enjoy watching them. We barely see squirrels on our little farm, I hope they’re living happily in the woods.