From Our Backyard, A monthly column written by Charles

From Our Backyard

59 and 20.  Numbers hold little meaning without a terminology attached to them.  My age this morning matches the temperature inside our house.  It is 59.  Last night, I attended a rather loud and raucous music concert.  Not one to sit still, I danced about like I was 20 years old again.  It is 20 degrees outside.  The blue air is bracing and crisp as I begin filling our bird feeders.  I can see birds waiting patiently in the bare filigree of branches above for me to finish my task.  The whistling kettle indicates that my tea will be piping hot.  It’s a good start to a winter’s day.  Later on I’ll probably ache like Old Man Winter.

   Mourning Doves tumble out of the thick ashen sky.  This season we’ve had up to 25 doves at a time.  Their feathering obscures them as they waddle silently about pecking for insects and seeds in the fallen leaves.  Their quiet demeanor is quite unlike the rowdy mass of female Redwings that were here a moment ago.  That clattering flock of over 75 Redwings rifled and rummaged through the crackling pages of last year’s greenery.  Woodpeckers can be heard diligently hammering on snags searching for hidden grubs.  As of yet only the most common Woodpeckers; Red-bellied, Hairy and Downy, are eating the suet.  I still hope to attract, Northern Flickers, Pileated Woodpeckers and Yellow-belly Sapsuckers. For some reason this winter the Juncos have been scarce while those peckish White-throated Sparrows are numerous. The sparrows explode in a feathery firework from the bramble when I walk near.  Cock-tailed Wrens poke through our bins of firewood. I knock the pieces of wood together before I bring them inside to leave the hibernating bugs for the birds. Our lone Mockingbird patrols his 

No bird dares to sneak a purply fruit for the ever vigilant Mockingbird chases them off.  On sullen days, a flash of Bluebirds or a flare of Cardinals may not be able to lift the meteorological gloom but they do brighten a person’s mood.  Chickadees, Titmice and Goldfinches quickly flit in for seed and make a hasty retreat.  It doesn’t take long for the screaming alarm of Blue Jays to sound after I drop a handful of whole peanuts.  Bouncing ever closer from perch to perch they come to snatch each nutty treasure until none are left.  I believe the Squirrels are in league with the Black Walnut trees. I watch them bounding across the lawn with a nut packed in its jaws.  Once buried they retreat back to the wood.  Next summer when a walnut tree sprouts in the middle of the yard I’ll know why.  Fox roam our fields hunting rodents and occasionally eating seed under our feeders. As the winter lengthens and natural food sources diminish the birds will rely on the seed and suet you provide more so.  Falling snows and lingering ice will make their situation much worse.  Keep your feeders filled.

  Consider the numbers 231, 368, and 2.9.  Out of context you would assume that 2.9 is the smaller number. In 1970, there were 231 million people in North America and at the end of 2019 there were 368 million people.  An increase of almost 60%.  In that same time frame there was a decline of 2.9 billion birds in North America, a 29% decrease. The losses are all attributed to human activity.  We need to alter our lifestyles to ensure there is a future for the birds.  Your grandchildren wish to feed the birds.  Don’t let birdsong vanish from the air.  100 years ago people stood up for the birds. It’s our turn.

January 2020                                                   

Love your Cat, Love your Birds; Keep your Cat Inside                               

Happy Birding, Charles Shattuck