Time to Feed the Birds!

Birds of a feather flock to our feeder all winter.

My friend Dawn noted on her Facebook page yesterday that she had seen the first snowbird of the season at her bird feeder. Glancing at the forlorn-looking log cabin feeder outside the window, I too decided it was that time of year again. The air has long since chilled, the bright hues of fall are fading, and the droll patterns of frost now regularly creep across the farm each morning – In other words, winter is just around the corner, bringing with it one of my favorite activities, bird-watching. I keep my bird feeder right outside my bedroom window so I can enjoy the beautiful array of plumage with my morning coffee. It’s a pleasant way to start any day.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash… When what, to my wondering eyes did appear… A pitiful, empty feeder, caked with last season’s crud. Yuck. I grabbed it off the hanger, took it out to my workshop, and pulled a bottle of Microbe-Lift Bird Feeder Cleaner off the shelf. It’s a soy-based cleaner, safe to use on any outdoor surface, including birdhouses and birdbaths. (I even use it on grimy picnic tables and chairs after the summer!) The sad, grubby little cabin took on a new life in no time. I filled it right up and placed its gleaming frame back on the hook. Now all I have to do is wait for the first lucky guests of the season to arrive. Will it be a snow bird? A Carolina Wren? A charming Cardinal? A cute little Purple Finch? A Goldfinch? Besides those favorites, we also get Flickers, Nuthatches, House Sparrows, and an occasional Starling. It’s always fun to see who shows up each day. Our black-and-white housecat, Patches, also enjoys watching the birds through the glass, but for different reasons.

Last spring, we had a particularly personable pair of finches. They were identical, mature birds, but I like to think they were mother and daughter. They always flew to the feeder together. One bird would pick up, crack, and eat the seeds, but the other bird just sat there and chirped loudly. Sometimes, the feeding bird would crack a seed and feed it to the complaining, oblivious bird and then go back to feeding itself. It seemed to me that the second bird had not learned the avian art of cracking seeds, and so instead of taking it upon herself to learn, simply demanded of her mother to feed her. The mother tried and tried, but to no avail. The pair is fond to my memory because they remind me of myself and my own wearisome teenage daughter. I keep encouraging her to get a job, learn to drive, save for college, but she just keeps sitting on the perch and chirping loudly. Teenagers and baby birds, what’s the difference?

I live in central Maryland so I see a lot of birds indigenous to the northeast, but what kind of birds does winter bring in other parts of the country? Do you have any funny or interesting bird stories? Leave and comment and let me know!