Friday, December 5, 2008

The view from my window

I have discovered, to my delight, that by putting out a small bird feeder hung on a plant hook just into the edge of the woods, I can increase the level of wildlife activity in my front yard by about 1000%. my little copper roofed feederWhen I first tried putting up my little feeder, the chipmunks were still awake and busy collecting food for the long cold winter, and they quickly realized how to jump onto the feeders and carry all the seeds away in less than an hour. But now that the chipmunks have gone to their cozy hideouts for the winter, I once again tried putting up the feeder to see what it might attract. red-bellied woodpeckerI didn’t have to wait long. Within an hour, chickadees and nuthatches were frequent visitors. In less than an afternoon, the variety had grown to include downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, purple finches, goldfinches, juncos, blue jays, and, to my utter delight, a half-dozen pairs of cardinals! I still worry about the red and grey squirrels learning the chipmunks’ tricks, but so far they are minding their manners from the ground. I am scoping out some trees however as possible sites for stringing cables for hanging the feeder higher off the ground if necessary. Grey squirrelYesterday I watched all of this marvelous activity spell-bound, but sad that my little digital camera does not have the zoom capacity to get any good shots of the birds. So last night I asked my husband if I could borrow his digital Canon EOS with the BIG lense. With this baby mounted on my tripod, I could set it up and point it at the feeder and then wait for the birds to flock in. I set it all up by 8:00am this morning and waited. I even put some seeds on pavers on the ground, for those varieties that can’t or don’t like to cling to feeders. I was not disappointed! All of the activity of the day before ensued immediately. In the middle of the commotion of blue jays and chickadees, something larger caught the corner of my eye – a pileated woodpecker, which landed right on the tree by the feeder! Pileated woodpeckersI went crazy snapping photos. I finally shut off the camera and went back to work, but the next time I looked up, TWO pileateds were clinging to the same tree! Again I went crazy with the camera. The first woodpecker enlarged a hole in the tree and stared intently into the hole, sticking its beak and tongue into the crevice to lap up the bugs inside. Suddenly, it flared its wings and moved sideways. I wondered what was up, so I glanced down the tree and witnessed a red squirrel advancing towards the bird which was at least five times its own size. Taking offense to a squirrelThey maneuvered in this way for awhile, the squirrel advancing slowly, the pileated spreading its wings and moving away, until finally it tired of the game and flew off to another tree. Satisfied its territory was safe, the squirrel retreated back down the tree to its position under the feeder. But the pileated was not about to forget about its tasty treats – soon it was back again at the same hole, pecking, lapping and cautiously keeping an eye on the squirrel. Blue jayBy about 9:30am the activity had died down a bit. Chickadees still visited the feeder, but the frenzy of “first breakfast” seemed to have passed. Which reminded me that my stomach was growling, as I had skipped my own first breakfast for the chance to capture the activity in the yard. So now I will fly off to the kitchen to take a gander at what tasty treats I can find there. I won’t have to worry about “eating on the fly,” or protecting my morsels from a hungry squirrel. I can sit down and savor, eating slowing and enjoying both the food and the ever-changing view outside my front window.


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