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My Last Minutes With A House Finch

finch in my hands

Click to see full-sized image!

The Day Started Like Any Other

I was catching up on email and other early morning tasks. My wife was working from home and was out watering the new plants around the house. After a while, she came and and told me there was a little bird out front under the garage light that appeared to be sleeping but was standing up. From my previous experience with my back yard friends, I was pretty sure this was not going to turn out well. I finished what I was working on and went outside to take a look.

She Can’t Have Much Time Left

By the time I got to her she was already listing to one side, breathing was rapid but shallow. She was almost completely unaware of my approach. She protested a bit when I picked her up but not for long. I held her in my two cupped hands making sure not to impede her breathing or startle her in any way. I asked my wife to open some doors for me so I could take her out on the back steps so we could be where she spent most of her time with us.

I just wanted her to feel safe, familiar and loved!

Her End Is Near

I watched her as she continued her rapid breathing. She appeared to be in no distress so I just comforted her, talked to her and waited for her time to come. I told her how happy we were to have her choose our back yard to come for food, water, play and relaxation. I told her how much joy her and her friends and family have brought to our family. She listened without sound or movement. She seemed so glad not to be alone at this time and I was happy I could help her now.

Time For Prayers

The last thing I remember her doing is opening her eyes briefly and looking right at me. It was as if to tell me “Thank you for all we’ve shared. But mostly, thank you for holding me now as I begin a new journey.” She then gave a brief shiver, closed her eyes and was gone. I’m sure I felt her spirit leave her body. I couldn’t help just staring at her and marveling at what I was blessed to have experienced. I prayed God would receive her and find her another back yard to play in. It may be cliche’ but… I know she’s in a better place now. I hope we get to see each other again some day! Amen.

Am I Paying Attention?

It’s time like these that I take a look at my life and ask if I’m really paying attention. Or is life just flying by where I only catch glimpses from time to time. I’ve been a daily meditator for the last three years and I believe this has helped me cherish all the moments more. I still struggle with it but I’m making progress towards my goal of being more mindful. I know it made spending the last days with my mom last year a little easier on both of us. For that I’m grateful.

What About You?

Have you had the incredible experience of helping one of your back yard friends or pets move on to the next phase of their journey? How did it affect you? Leave me a comment below so we can talk about it.

About The Artist

Robin Hallett is an Intuitive Healer, writer and artist who helps people discover and manifest their dreams. You can find her at RobinHallett.com.

Robin Hallet

 

5 Birding Gifts Every Birder Would Love To Get

Your Friends Need Help!

birding giftsI know what your non-birding friends are going through. They know you love to feed, watch and learn about birds. But, that’s about as far as their knowledge of birding goes. End result? They end up throwing up their hands and getting you a gift certificate. That’s fine and it beats the heck out of taking a stab at something you already have or something else you don’t need. But for close friends who want to find a birding gift that shows they put some effort into it, this list should be emailed to them. I’m attaching a PDF below that you can download and email to those friends.

The List

In an effort to make this list as useful as possible, I’ve included links to products on Amazon. These are affiliate links and I will receive some commission if you use the link to purchase the item. I just wanted you to know about them in the interest of being transparent.

Backyard Birding Boots-I have a pair very similar to this and they have been the best money I’ve ever spent! My back yard is backed up to woods and tends to hold water for a while. I just remove my shoes, slip these on and my worries of wet or cold feet just melt away.

Rubber Mallet-Any birder who has a resin birdbath and lives anywhere it gets below freezing in winter knows how challenging it can be to keep water available. Especially, if your bird bath is too far away to safely connect a heater. I’ve used one of these for almost 10 years on my resin birdbath and have not cracked it yet.

Under Feeder Rake Set-This is another one of those things I’ve used forever and I love it! I actually got it initially to pick up massive poop for dogs we were fostering. The first time I tried it for cleaning up under my feeders, I was hooked. And yes, it’s still the best way I know to collect poop too!

Brome Squirrel Buster Peanut Plus Feeder-This feeder was sent to me to demo by Brome and I can’t recommend it nearly enough. I have squirrels in my backyard and they haven’t figured a way to bust it yet. It’s easy to take apart to refill and clean and it allows you to set a specific tension to exclude exactly the birds you want to. If you put one of these up, you won’t believe the variety of birds who will use it. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers will get on it and a lot of other birds will feed from the little pieces that drop from it.

Metal Squirrel Feeder-Don’t waste your time with wood squirrel feeders! I went through 3 of them in as many years until I got a metal one. I’ve had it ever since. While I don’t believe this is all you have to do to stop squirrels from raiding your feeders, it is an integral part of a system along with baffling all your feeders and NEVER underestimating their intelligence.

Upside Down Suet Feeder-I’ve also had one of these for many years and they do really discourage many of the larger birds from raiding your feeders. Sure, some young bluejays and occasional starling will figure it out. For the most part, these will feed your chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers and even nuthatches!

20 lb Bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seed-Still the most widely accepted and most economical feed to give your backyard friends. Wrapping it might be difficult but what birder doesn’t love to have more seed on hand?

Gift Cards

For your friends that just can’t make up their minds what to get you, gift certificates are always welcome. Here are two I recommend.

Walmart Gift Card-You’ll be able to find the cheapest price on your birding supplies here almost every time. Make sure to shop around but Walmart is a good bet most of the time.
Wild Birds Unlimited Gift Card-Look at this as a down payment on that special feeder, feed or doodad you’ve been eyeing all year. These are not available online but you can use the link to locate one close to you and make arrangements by phone.

How Did I Do?

Did I cover most of the bases? If not, let me know what else you recommend that you really love to get. Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Otherwise, download the PDF below and email it to your non-birding friends before it’s too late!

Birding Gifts Guide

3 Ways To Attract More Goldfinches

Let’s face it…who doesn’t love goldfinches in their back yards! Their sweet vocalizations and little fights with each other are reason enough to love them. When you throw in the male’s summer plumage, it’s impossible not to want to see more of them.

Over the years, I’ve tried different things to attract them. Some have worked and some not. Surprisingly, one of the most successful means I found by accident. Let me outline them for you.

Keep It Clean

Of all of the birds I feed, goldfinches have got to be the fussiest. If you have a feeder in your back yard they’ve been bombarding and suddenly, almost none of them are bothering it, chances are it’s gotten dirty. You may not be able to see it from your window or just passing by but it’s dirty or has gotten wet inside. And not just the feeder itself. If you have any kind of clear rain shield on top of it, clean that too. Unless it’s been dirty for a LONG time, you’ll see them return to it the day you clean it. If it has been dirty for a while just be patient. They will return to it.

Turn Their Lives Upside Down

Goldfinches are very social birds with their own species but appreciate having their feeders to themselves. This means if you can get them one of those upside-down thistle feeders, they’ll love you because house finches can’t use those. It’s also a good idea to locate the feeder away from your main feeder station.

Be patient. It usually takes a little while before one or two brave souls try it. Once they have, others will learn from them. The next thing you know, you’ll look out in your back yard this feeder will look like your hanging goldfinch ornaments from it-LOL!

Treat Them Like Chickadees

This is the surprise I told you about. Many years ago, I bought one of those chickadee feeders that have the larger bird restricting ring around it. Little by little, I started seeing goldfinches coming to it. I put sunflower chips in mine. After a little while, it became so busy I had to set up another to alleviate the traffic. Trust me on this: chickadees, titmice, wrens and goldfinches love this. House finches will learn to use it over time but not immediately. One of the things I do to help this is take it down after morning feeding and put it up again after dinner but before dark. They WILL learn and adapt to this schedule, I promise you.

Anything Else?

So, there you have it. My top three tips for attracting more goldfinches. Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment below and tell us about them. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your back yard!

Jeff

Note from Jeff

I apologize for not posting as frequently as I should be and I promise to fix that. I’ve had a few family health/passing issues that are now behind me. I hope you’ll come back and join in again. If not, I understand and still wish you the best! JJ

Human Parents Think They Have It Bad?

Human Parents vs Bird Parents

While I have to admit I am not a parent in the conventional sense. We are parents to our 10 year old yorkie/chihuahua mix, Maggie which has been both challenging and rewarding. However, I am over fifty years of age and have been around a ton of parents and have heard about their struggles and triumphs. So, let me give you a light-hearted breakdown of the major issues facing both kinds of parents.

Birth

Human parents hope the child is born without complications and completely healthy. Bird parents hope nobody breaks into their house and harms their offspring before they’re born.

Growth

Human parents want their children to flourish so they can be parents themselves one day. Bird parents hope their babies get old enough to have children of their own.

Leaving The Nest

Human parents are divided between how much they’ll miss their kids when they leave the house and how nice it will be to have the house to themselves again. Bird parents can’t wait for their young to get out of the nest so they can stop carrying those damn fecal sacs in their beaks-yuck! Still, feeding them wherever the youngsters happen to land can get very tedious.

Education

Human parents want their children to get whatever education they need to succeed in life. Whether they choose to go to college and career or are entrepreneurial minded, they want them to get the tools they need. Bird parents need their children to learn a whole bunch of stuff very quickly so that they will grow up-period!

Socialization

Human parents want their kids to learn how to get along and work with many different types of people. You never know what opportunities will present themselves if you’re open to them. Bird parents want their children to learn to work with other birds, regardless of their social status, to help each other survive from predatory attacks.

Diet

Human parents want their kids to eat food that will help them grow big and strong. They help them learn the best places to get food that will support that goal. Ditto for bird parents.

Vacations

Although they can be some of the most stress-filled ventures, human parents still want to take their kids on trips so they can see more of the world together. The parents of migratory birds feel the stress too! They may need to make long trips with their families in order to survive. Along the way, they’ve got to contend with lack of food or water, the elements and predation.

Both of these parents, I’m sure, will have fond memories to look back on in their later years.

Calling All Parents!

As I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, could you please help me fill in the blanks here! Leave me a comment on your favorite comparisons between human and bird parents.

Nail Biting Bluebird Fledging

bluebirddadSmall

Our first family of bluebirds just left the nest the other day. Or should I say the other night! That’s right, night. OK, maybe it was evening but it was the first time I’ve ever had bluebirds fledge at any time other than morning. Let me recount how it happened.

What’s That Dark Spot In The Lawn?

This first family seemed to be taking their time. It seemed to me that they had already been feeding them a week since they hatched. I know there is no hard and fast schedule but I have not had them ever take longer than a week to my knowsledge. At 6:3o in the evening two nights ago my wife asked “is that what I think it is in the lawn?” I took a quick look and, sure enough, it was the first fledgling in the lawn. Luckily the lawn had been recently mowed (a rarity back there) because it was not having great success with flight. It was mostly what I call “hover-walking.” Brief burst of pseduo flight preceded and followed by hurried steps to keep moving forward. Eventually, it got to a place where it needed some rest.

Not long after that, another one decided to give it a go. Then, another and another.

A few were able to fly up in the nearest tree right away and others at least got on the second rail of our fence. The original daredevil continued to stay in the grass while the parents were trying to watch, protect, encourage and feed them. Talk about a parenting nightmare! Could you imagine a family outing where all of your kids went in a different direction at once?

It’s Time To Get Ready For Bed

As the light grew dimmer, we were worried that the one in the grass was going to be a problem. Of the five total babies, two were up in a nearby tree, two were on our fence and the other still in the grass. I could tell by their vocalizations the parents were getting a little concerned too. We kept watching until it was almost completely dark. The last time we looked out, the two on the fence had gotten on the same rail and were snugged up together. Very sweet! The first fledgling was nowhere to be seen so we felt pretty sure it had found a safe place to be for the night.

First Light

The first thing I saw in the morning were the two on the fence still hunkered down together. They seemed to be doing fine. It had only gone down into the 50s that night so we weren’t afraid they were in any danger from cold. They proved they were fine within a half hour because they both flew off and up into the tree the others were on. The rest of the day when I would go outside I could hear the same begging I heard from inside the box coming from that tree.

Have you had any experience with bluebirds fledging at night? I’d love to hear about it. This is the first time I’ve ever had them do this.

 

I’m Grateful for Real Reader Comments

Since I set this blog up years ago, I’ve had my share of good and bad post ideas. Some that I thought would be helpful fell flat on their face. Others, like the posts about what to feed wild rabbits, have been hugely successful and constantly searched for. One of the things that can help me get more of the good stuff out to you is if you tell me about it.

That’s where reader comments come in!

Reader Comments

Whenever I get readers that find the site and take the time to leave a comment, I try to reward them with a fast and heart-felt response to their question or observation. This blog thrives by hearing what’s going on in your back yard and what challenges you have. That way, I can make a note of it and include it in my content ideas. This helps readers feel part of the community and like their opinion matters. That’s because they are and it does!

When you contrast that with the never-ending stream of crap comments that come in from spam bots, you can see why I’m thrilled to have a real human telling me something interesting, informative or challenging. Luckily, Akismet puts almost all of the crap comments from machines right in the spam folder. Unfortunately, until they get a bad rap, some get through with laughable, misspelled and irrelevant “comments.” I trash those but I still get that “Oh, a new comment. Let’s see how I can help the…….crap! More spam” let down when it gets through.

So, talk to me. Even if you just say hi. Or tell me something you need help with right now and I’ll do my best to assist you any way I can. I’m going to be writing some guides and tutorials in the near future and your ideas help me build those. Helping you to get more enjoyment out of your back yard birding is the thing that motivates me the most.