Thursday, January 24, 2008

Waiting for Birdseed

We were surprised by several inches of snow today and as usual birds lined up on the crabapple tree to wait turns at our three feeders. We go through almost a hundred pounds of sunflower seeds a month, year round, not to mention a fair amount of thistle seed for the finches. Filling the birdfeeders is the first thing I do every morning -- even before coffee. But what a reward! Mourning doves, juncos, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, titmice, wrens, and cardinals are our most enthusiastic customers at this time of year. A few days ago there were fifteen male cardinals in this tree at one time. They're usually very territorial birds, to the extent of fighting their own reflections in the side mirrors of our parked vehicles. But snow and hunger seem to call for a truce.

The occasional crow scavenges around the base of one birdfeeder, as well as, on warmer days, squirrels, chipmunks, and field mice. There are thrashers and woodpeckers too -- the red-bellied and the downy. And yesterday a huge Pileated Woodpecker took over one feeder -- no other bird came near as he flared his bright red crest and brandished his long beak. What a dramatic bird! When at last he flew off, it made me think of a pterodactyl. No wonder he and his possibly extinct cousin, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, have both been called the "Lord God Almighty" bird. When you hear the clatter of strong wings and the raucous laughing call, or see the damage that big beak can do to a dead tree -- or the side of your wooden house, for that matter -- you can only shake your head and say, "Lord God Almighty, what a bird!"
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