There's no doubt in my mind that feeding the wild birds has enhanced my life in so many ways. Not only do they entertain me, but they have taught me so much over the years. They are constant teachers of life, love and happiness. All the birds are welcome at my bird feeders regardless of their size or the color of their plumage. Yet, there are those folks who would like to pick and choose which birds are the most desirable visitors. Any bird who appears to be too aggressive or greedy is frowned upon and not encouraged to stay around.
For years I wasn't happy to see the little brown English sparrows or the black Starlings come for a free meal. Like many kids, as a young boy I was taught that these were not nice birds to have around. I've since learned that criticism is not a tool for knowledge and understanding.
For many, the culprits at the bird feeder are the Blue jays, who aren't happy until they fly off with every sunflower seed. This is something they do mostly through the cold months. I leave sunflower seed out for the birds all year round, but in the summer the jays prefer insects over seeds. In the summer, they tend to eat more than they hide. Compared to most of the other birds, the Blue jays are larger, and their very presence is intimidating to most of the birds. There are a few exceptions. The Red-bellied woodpeckers don't back down from the Blue jays for a spot at the feeders. The gentle Mourning dove is also fearless of the jays, even getting physical with them if need be. There seems to be a 50-50 chance that a Starling will stand up to a Blue jay. Size is a very important factor in the pecking order, but spirit wins out in the end; ask any House wren!
It's been a while since I've heard a thud at the window, which means a bird has made a head-on collision, but I did the other day. I quickly got up from the drawing table and stepped on the back porch. A little White-breasted nuthatch was lying belly up on the snow, his wings spread but still. I scooped him up and put him under my shirt where it's dark and warm, and went back to the drawing table. In about 15 minutes I felt the nuthatch stir a little under my shirt. I carefully reached under the shirt and gently brought him out. He struggled a little, a good sign that he could make it on his own again. I took him back outside and placed him on a branch in a nearby Honeysuckle vine. He sat there while I took his picture, and only flew off when I asked him if he was going to be all right.
When two or three Gray squirrels show up at the birdfeeder at the same time, I'm probably going to tap on the window to chase them away. When they gang up on the birdseed, there isn't any room left for the birds. Fred is a large, male red Fox squirrel and he likes to sit on the window feeder. He knows I won't bother him, and lets me walk right up to him at the window. Unlike the Gray squirrels, Fred eats for a while and then leaves for the woods where he spends most of his time. I've always been partial to the beautiful Fox squirrels, and always let them know they are welcome here.
This morning I was back to shoveling snow after three inches came in the night. I don't get nearly enough exercise in the winter, so I don't mind the chance to do something physical now and then. When I stop shoveling to rest for a few minutes, I reach in to my coat pocket for some sunflower seeds. As soon as I hold out my hand, the chickadees, who have been patiently waiting, land in my hand for a free handout. It makes shoveling snow a fun job.
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