Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Backyard Bird Report

Erik created the mother of all birdfeeders in our backyard this summer and it’s doing its job nicely.   
Fall migration has started and it’s a delight to look out the window each morning and see so many birds gorging themselves on millet, niger thistle, and black-oil sunflower seeds.  One morning there was such a variety and they were acting out with such personality that I had to record the birds in a diagram (for Erik, who goes to work earlier than I do and often misses the action):
True to their name, the house finches love eating near our house.  And, ironically, their favorite feeder is itself house-shaped and hangs under the front eave of our porch.  They positively gorge themselves throughout the day, leaving a fine mess that we must sweep up every evening.  However, our squirrel friends—previously frustrated by the measures we took to keep them out of the feeders—have discovered that hanging out beneath the feeders can itself be quite rewarding.  They are now frequent visitors to our porch as well as, helping us to clean up after the ever-exuberant finches.
{An unusual sight -- a Black-Capped Chickadee in the House Finch feeder}
When I was young, we lived next door to an elderly woman, Nita, who loved birds and had several prized birdbaths in her yard.  Like the one I bought for our front yard last year, hers had a concrete bird figurine in the center (perhaps the reason why I was so drawn to this one at an estate sale and wrestled it into the back of our Subaru all by myself in the pouring rain?).
Nita was an artist, so her little bird statues were always painted like the Blue Jays that visited her yard daily.  My memories of Nita are both incredibly vivid and, at the same time, entirely fragmented.  I remember strange things like the quality of the grass in her backyard and how she would talk to the jays ... and the fact that they seemed to listen.  Being the impressionable little girl I was, this human-bird connection as something almost magical.
{A favorite photo of mine by Erik}
It wasn’t until I moved to Oregon and started spending time in nature with Erik that I learned more about birds, mostly picking up bits and pieces from him.  There’s something very satisfying in observing the flora and fauna of one's neighborhood and recognizing the calls of familiar birds (and then being excited by the unfamiliar ones!).  But even with all I’ve learned, my base memory--the place where I start --is Nita’s sunny backyard, running around barefoot in that thick grass, and listening to her call to her Blue Jay friends (which I’m pretty sure were actually Scrub Jays … but details, details :-).