Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Better in My Backyard

High: 40
Low: -1
Conditions: Winds 15-20 mph with wind chills approaching -15

The Audubon Backyard Bird Count has begun!

We’ve spent the past week or so getting reading for this weekend. By getting ready, I mostly mean bribing birds to alight on one of our feeders long enough to be counted. This is considerably more challenging than one might think.

When I was a student, I always prided myself on my ability to reject peer pressure and social trends. This was no doubt compensation for my inability to catch onto trends—or peers—as they happened. But I remained stalwart in my opposition to those in the flow nevertheless. The same held true for my 20-something life. Then I got married and bought a house (or bought a house and then got married, to be precise) in the upland forest of Central Maine. And that’s where my personal resolve shattered.

People move to places like Waldo County because they want to be close to nature. But, in truth, we want more than that. We want to be able to see nature living close to us. We work hard to crane our necks in the direction of corn fields, to walk quietly through the woods, or (in extreme cases) to follow a juvenile dog on a tour of the landscape. When we’re too lazy for these measures, we lay food traps in the hopes that wildlife comes to us.

The minute Greg and I bought our house, one of my first acts was to hang multiple birdfeeders from the decrepit pole outside our kitchen window. I poured a hearty supply of mixed commercial seed called “Flyer’s Choice” that I selected from the elaborate display at the local hardware store. How could any self-respecting bird turn its nose up at a brand like that? Birds fly, right? So they’ll choose this feed, right?

Throughout that first year, I waited. And waited some more.

No birds.

I didn’t understand the cause of this predicament until I visited our nearest neighbor, Risto. Risto doesn’t bother with mixed seeds. Instead, he puts out premium sunflower seeds. Hulled sunflower seeds, so the multitudes of birds landing at his feeder don’t even have to bother with the shells. They love it. Forget flocking to his feeder, they stampede. Why settle for takeout when haute cuisine is right around the corner?
So you can understand my problem. If I was going to woo these birds, I needed better seed than Risto. I needed seed that represented the coolest-car-hottest-new-outfit-all-the-rage-hairstyle seed. I finally found it last month—and paid more for it than I do a bag of Ari’s food. On the mornings when I replenish the feeder, Ari follows me to the hall closet. She puts her snout deep in the bag of extra-super-premium sunflower seeds and inhales deeply. She eyes the suet, complete with freeze-dried insects, with what I’m certain is a twinge of envy. There’s black gold in that closet. She knows it. And probably resents it.
I'm not proud. But I am determined.
Is my campaign to one-up our neighbor working? I think so. This morning, two humans, two sister cats, and a caninaturalist spent the breakfast hour peering out the dining room window. And happily, our daily special finally seems to have rivaled Risto’s.

Below is our count for the day. We'd love to hear about the birds in your neck of the woods (so to speak). Don't forget to send your tallies, stories, or trendiest bird food our way--we'll keep a list compiled here for the duration of the count!

7 Common redpoll (Carduelis flammea)
5 Black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus)
1 Hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
1 Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

1 White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
1 Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
3 American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
8 Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)


PKPWV said...

Wow Ari and kathryn, You guys have lots of cool birds in your backyard! We just have pigeons that we see outside the window-boring birds! But when we go on our hikes and runs we get to see all kinds of differents birds and sometimes bunnies!!!

Mom loves to run...and she loves running with me!! She's spent about 7 years suffering quite a bit of pain in her left foot which was causing the running to really stall. Mom would go from running about 6 miles a day to running about 2 in major pain~then in decemebr she started something called prolotheraphy~mom has had 4 treatments in her foot and she says it's a miracle!! She's building back her running again-we're supposed to run 8 miles this weekend. And has entered a half marathon in April. i don't know if I'll be allowed to run in with her but I'm doing the training with her. It's fun. mom brings water and off we go! She always gives me time to do my business which is nice of her.


Mack said...

We have a family of woodpeckers living in our backyard and that's about it! (We live near Houston)

Thanks for the nice comment on my bloggy!

Bark at ya later,

Dmitri said...

Lots of nice birds here, there, everywhere, but who's counting? Oh, Ari is, and Audubon too. Good work.
Not that it's any of my business, but what's with buying a house before getting married? Are you one of those liberal types mocking tradition and family values? You probably shouldn't run for elected office, and neither should Ari. It's sure to come up.

jan said...

We live in a climate where the birds migrate down from the mountains for the winter. I don't have feeders, but I'm an organic gardener and as a result have colonies of insects that the birds are welcome to.

Does that count?

JB's Big World said...

We feed the birds at my house but my mom is not sure what types they all are. Lots of doves though.

Jan said...

Oh, you must love watching the birds there. That sounds like such fun. Samaritan is a bird dog, you know. So he's jealous. We don't see many birds here.

jan funny farm

Rusty said...

Mom likes to watch the birds in our trees and feeder, but I like to watch the squirrels!

Mom got a great picture of a mockingbird attacking mean old Bob the cat. hehehe

umekotyan said...

Good evening Kathryn and Ari.
Thank you for a wonderful comment.
...flying up of me...

The Audubon Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful event.
And, the picture of the vine recalls the botanist in Japan to me with the bird and Makino Tomitaro's picture is recalled. Nature is connected with the world so.
I do not understand the name of many kinds of birds.
Knowledge is only insufficient for it.
However, I am also the same as Kathryn and Ari, and nature is loved.

from loved ume tyan

Kapp pack said...

Sounds you had lots of fun counting the birds. With no fresh snow we haven't had any sightings today :-(

Woo woo, Kelsey Ann

Triona Trog said...

My mother is interested in wild birds (and I get caught up in it, often as not) so I had to laugh at your entry, especially the part about one-upping the neighbours who use shelled sunflower seeds (she had the EXACT same problem)

However...It's rather too early for us to count birds in my neck of the woods! Spring is still a loooong way off. Better to think about skiing. :-)

Dakota said...

Sightings from yesterday afternoon and evening:
2 Starlings
1 Cardinal

And a whole flock of something flying in 'V' formation!!! I'm sad to report we couldn't get the binoculars fast enough to determine what they were. Sigh.


Princess, Tank and Isaac: The Newfs of Hazard said...

Hey, do you jump up and catch the birds? We would! But after rolling them in our mouths for a while we get distracted and they fly away.

Blue said...

Hi there!

Very impressive! Now I know why my bird count is poor, some-one is providing better food!!! And, there I was blaming my neighbours cats.

TY for the comment on my last post on 'If only if only I'd blog.'
After a lengthy 3 day break - lol -
I've started a fresh @

Best wishes, pats & pets

sugarcreekstuff said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and the kind words.
We bought the house first too. Lucky for me we don't live close or my birds would be going to your house. I give them the same Scratch Grains that I feed to the chickens. They seem to like it, or at least are too polite to complain.