From Our Backyard, A monthly column written by Charles

From Our Backyard

   The March Lion roared in a bit early this year. For the past 24 hours, it swayed the stalwart trees, broke branches, and tumbled our trashcan across the drive. In the morning, my birds were duly absent. I couldn't imagine the harrowing adventure they went through last night grasping onto perches while waiting for the windy feline to settle down. I thought perhaps the gusts had blown the birds far in to the next county or state. Wherever their refuge may be, it certainly was not at my bird feeders during the chaotic dawn. The abrupt change of the stagnant weather pattern of rainy and dreary skies, caused many people to lose power. The only silver lining was finally being able to raise my downcast spirit to the blue aether once more. 

    Lately many customers have remarked at seeing Bluebirds at the feeders for the first time. Bluebirds like to eat sunflower chips, suet products, and mealworms. If you've been offering those foods, that may be what's enticing them. Also the feverish activity of your regular birds will attract incidental visitors to investigate. Each morn, we have a convention of Cardinals that meet on our tray feeder. Instead of the tea I pour for myself,  I sprinkle cups of Safflower seed for them to peck at. Occasionally a Red-wing Blackbird or a Mourning Dove lands and partakes in a bite or two. To the tray I'll add a scoop of whole peanuts to draw the Blue Jays in.  The Jays come one at a time. I watch as they weigh each peanut before they fly off to cache the heaviest nugget somewhere. They'll repeat this process until they snatch the lightest one last. When we have a moment, Kathy and I count the birds to add to our ebird list. A Red-breasted Nuthatch visits occasionally. His quick retreat with a beak full of seed is comparable to that of the Chickadee. I find both birds very difficult to photograph. In addition to the three woodpeckers, a Brown Creeper has been eating our suet. I had glimpse of a Towhee last week and am still hopeful for a Fox Sparrow sighting. We're still visited by storms of Blackbirds, but the cages around my tube feeders greatly lessens their impact and my frustration. Like the winter, our Goldfinches are glacially molting. Color will eventually return to the land. Until then, I'll settle for the beauty of birds.

    The diversity of birds at your feeders mimics the pattern of customers who visit our store. Birds congregate around feeders in a most unnatural manner. Species that truly would not be associated with each other are found in close proximity by the lure of bird food. Sometimes they seem to converse or politely await their turn in a pecking order sort of way. They really like the natural branch attachment on the pole system, much similar to customers waiting for a parking spot. Away from the feeders, a Downy Woodpecker would fly right by a Titmouse like two cars passing each other on road. We as people, rarely connect with those outside our own circle of friends and family. Work, home, opinions, and the fear of saying a simple hello keeps us to what we know is safe.       

Kathy and I are grateful for what this store has brought to our lives. We have met the most beautiful birds; oops!, I mean people. Last week, one of the kindest and most gracious gentleman I ever known passed away, a week short of his 95th birthday. The next time you walk the Auburn Preserve or visit the Auburn Steam Museum, remember the generosity of Tom Marshall Jr.  I was kidding around with a favorite lady friend of mine about her age. She resolutely answered that she'll be 99 in April. I know with her resolve, she'll be able to blow out all the candles. On Sunday, I visited another friend who slipped on the ice a few weeks back. He broke five ribs and punctured a lung. I sat with him for a spell and tried to liven his spirits and mine. Luckily he loves nature and can prop himself up to look out the window. 

  It's not every job that makes you happy to see people. The fact is that if we didn't own the bird store, we may never have met so many wonderful customers we're proud to call friends. You demonstrate hope by rushing in, before a storm, to make sure your birds will be taken care of. Your birds can't verbally thank you but they do by show their appreciation by appearing at your feeders everyday. They brighten your day and you brighten ours. We're glad our bird store is your feeding station. You're easy people. Now if I can only keep the Coopers Hawks of the world away from my feeding station.

 Happy Birding, Charles Shattuck