Bill and I were standing in the living room at the back window gazing outside as our son walked by.
“What on Earth are you two doing?” he asked.
“Watching birds,” we said, in unison. Bill and I then turned and grinned at each other.
I added, “It’s what old people do.”
We then laughed. Our son just shook his head like we’d lost our minds and walked on into the kitchen where he promptly ignored us.
How he thinks we’ll lose our minds simultaneously is beyond me.
The truth is Bill and I have always been into birds. You can’t live out where we do and not be into them. Well, I guess you can, but what’s the point? Birds are plentiful here, and none are more plentiful than my sassy cadre of Cardinals.
In winter, Cardinals, male and female, and mostly in pairs, belly up to the bird feeder all day long as long as those feeders are full of seed. We use a mix of Wagner’s 76027 Black Oil Sunflower seed and regular, high-quality birdseed. We also fill a finch feeder with Audubon Park 12236 Nyjer/Thistle Seed so that smaller birds like House Finches and American Goldfinches (only in winter) have a chance. Like Carol at May Dreams Gardens, we have our problems with Enga the Squirrel too, but nothing dissuades us from filling our bird feeders. We chase the squirrels. We also sometimes coat the copper poles with WD-40 to discourage them. It must be reapplied, and birdseed sometimes sticks to it which is gross in pictures. No, I’ve never poisoned a bird or squirrel by using it either.
[Click on photos in gallery to make them larger.]
If you do hang a feeder, you must keep it full. The birds depend upon you through winter once a feeder is available. We hang two regular feeders on long copper poles on the back deck which is surrounded by trees so that the birds can perch and fly for cover especially when the red-shouldered hawks come to eat. You know what hawks eat right? Smaller birds and rodents.
Nature is often cruel and takes no prisoners.
Feeding birds isn’t cheap, but we buy our seed in bulk locally and store it outdoors in three Behrens 6110 10-Gallon Locking Lid trash cans on the deck. The squirrels can’t break into these cans so they work well for our needs. Bill likes to layer the food in the feeders with a stripe of black oil sunflower seed between the regular food. Watching the birds makes our winter days shorter. They have such funny behavior.
Before the birds’ mating season begins and once temperatures rise, we’ll take in the feeders until late fall. That way, the birds will find their partners and carry on for the next year. I don’t spray pesticides, and I use many native plants so our birds have plenty of bugs and caterpillars to feed their young. Bugs are essential to a bird’s life cycle. If you don’t believe me, believe Doug Tallamy who has been writing and speaking on this subject for years. His two books, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded and The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, the second written with Rick Darke, are essential reading if you love wildlife. They certainly changed the way I garden.
The other afternoon, Bill said, “That’s weird. There are no birds out there.”
“There must be a hawk nearby. The birds quickly figure out when a hawk is near, and they go hide in the trees. Sometimes, the hawk is lucky. Most of the time they are.”
This time Bill looked at me as if I had two heads. “How do you know this stuff?”
“I just do.”
It’s best to keep some mystery alive even if you’ve been married as long as we have. Just ask Mrs. Cardinal.