Thursday, January 5, 2017

Birds in winter

My birdbath cupid makes an unusual offering -- a plate of suet for the birds. I bought birdseed and suet yesterday to help the birds survive while their usual pecking territory is covered with snow. I was told that plain suet won't attract squirrels, but it looks like the birds don't like it either -- not one peck was taken from this plate.

Odd as this looks, it's a paper plate of birdseed on top of the little birdbath, frozen over for the duration. The birds found it and had a good feast on Thursday.

Top view of the birdfeeder-birdbath. I'm using paper plates instead of buying a proper birdfeeder because this is a temporary arrangement. I hope.

Birds were a natural part of life to country-born-and-raised people like my parents. They never made a fuss about it, or kept lists of the birds they spotted, but they enjoyed birds and knew the common ones by sight and song as a matter of course. "Well, that's a junco," my mother would say, surprised at my ignorance. Or a house finch, or a bushtit or a towhee or one of the many versions of sparrows.

Despite my cluelessness, I've always liked the idea of a back yard full of chirping birds, and over the years, many a birdfeeder has come and gone from my garden. There was the simple wood tray model, the metal-tube feeder, the suet dispensers, the deluxe anti-squirrel birdfeeder with overhanging dome and underlying seed catcher. But the squirrels outwitted any baffles, the seeds fell in a mess, the mice invaded, and the arrival of a cat put paid to our efforts. How to justify inviting birds to the feast, only to have Mr. Darcy feast upon them?

I retreated to two birdbaths and keeping a sharp eye on the cat. But our unusual winter -- six weeks of snow covering whatever the birds snack on in neighbourhood gardens -- has me worried about their survival. So yesterday, I was at a Wild Birds Unlimited outlet. Nothing fancy, I told the clerk. Just enough to get the birds through the worst. I explained the mice, the squirrels, the cat, and to her credit, there was no upselling. I left with a jug of birdseed and a hunk of plain suet.

Today's feast was simplicity itself. Two paper plates on two frozen birdbaths, one with birdseed, one with suet. It took a few hours, but then...a most satisfying explosion of swooping and flying and pecking and chirping and sitting-on-branches-above and calling-in-of-friends-from-away. The squirrels and crows -- amazingly -- stayed away, and the little backyard birds feasted until sundown. I still don't know what they are, but I've hauled out mom and dad's old bird books. It may be time to learn something about what they knew so well.

The back yard in winter. At least the birds have lots of trees to perch on, to keep an eye out for the cat. Who is spending most of his time indoors these days, but is glaringly obvious when he goes out into the snow.

The plate tipped over at one point, spilling some seeds on the snow. I'm bringing the plates in at night; I expect the mice will have a go at the spillover when all is quiet.

The jug of birdseed from Wild Birds Unlimited, the local mecca for anyone who cares about birds. 

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how little we city dweller know about the wildlife around us. I am determined to learn the names of local trees this year and have bought The Vancouver Tree book. Perhaps you know these already? These would make good blog posts. I hope other people are thinking of the birds!